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Country's courts build reputation in maritime disputes

Updated: 2014-09-03 09:09
By Cao Yin (China Daily)

More foreign companies prefer to have marine disputes resolved in Chinese courts nowadays as the judiciary's reputation grows with the increasing number of maritime cases in which it has provided equal protection to overseas litigants, China's top court said.

With the development of the international shipping market and the global economic crisis, disputes over marine freight, watercraft rentals, vessel collisions, ship construction and ocean pollution have multiplied, according to China's Maritime Adjudication, a white book of marine trial records over the past 30 years in Chinese and English.

On the dockets of 10 Chinese maritime tribunals - most of them in coastal cities, such as Shanghai and Qingdao in Shandong province - were 21,548 marine disputes last year, up from only 18 when the first six marine courts were opened in 1984, said the white book, issued by the Supreme People's Court on Tuesday.

The figure shows an annual increase of about 10 percent a year, and China now handles the most marine disputes in the world as it becomes the main maritime cargo center in the Asia-Pacific region, the white book said.

So far, these tribunals have heard 64,747 marine cases involving overseas litigants from more than 70 countries and regions, the white book said.

Current Chinese Maritime Law and its procedures are based on the most advanced judicial thinking and methods, "which in foreign litigants' eyes stands as a guarantee and will better protect their rights," said Wang Yanjun, deputy chief judge of the marine tribunal under the top court.

Wang published 10 typical marine cases heard in China, saying that the more influential cases that Chinese maritime courts handle, the stronger its judicial reputation.

By August, 8,258 marine rulings with English versions have been released on the Internet, Wang said, adding that this is a better way for foreigners to learn about Chinese maritime trials.

"We regularly give professional training on marine issues to 570 maritime judges, sending 20 of them a year to ports so they can study marine cargo procedures and understand real problems in practice," he said.

"This helps Chinese maritime courts keep their good reputation and more foreigners to be better protected if they file a lawsuit in our country," he added.

Xu Guangyu, a senior maritime lawyer, said he had to go out on his own to find marine disputes at first, "but now, some foreign companies come to me when they encounter marine disputes," he said.

As foreign litigants' ships are detained, "they also prefer to ask for help from Chinese lawyers," he added.

In a case in April, Shanghai Maritime Court detained the Japanese vessel Baosteel Emotion, owned by Mitsui OSK Lines, asking it to pay delayed rent and reimburse losses to a Chinese corporation.

The detention aroused the public's attention, and the Japanese government thought the case had affected normal diplomatic relations between the two countries.

But the top court's spokesman, Sun Jungong, said that such a detention is a common way for marine courts to guarantee that companies that breach laws or contracts provide compensation.

As of 2013, Chinese maritime courts had detained 7,744 ships, of which 1,660 were from foreign companies, Sun added.


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