jettison (jĕtˈəsən, –zən) [key] [O.Fr., = throwing], in maritime law, casting all or part of a ship's cargo overboard to lighten the vessel or to meet some danger, such as fire. Such cargo, when found later, is known as jetsam (see flotsam, jetsam, and ligan). The master of the ship has the absolute right to jettison cargo when he reasonably believes it to be necessary, and the owners of the ship incur no liability. If the vessel carries goods of more than one shipper, the rule of general average provides for apportioning the loss among all the shippers because all have benefited by the master's action. On the other hand, if some cargo is lost by accident, the shippers who suffered no loss do not contribute to indemnification.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
More on jettison from Fact Monster:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: International Law