有序开展专业化审判实践。全国海事审判三级法院不断强化海洋环境司法的专业化审判机制，确保案件的高质量审理，加大海洋环境司法保护力度。最高人民法院在交通运输部上海打捞局与普罗旺斯船东2008-1有限公司（Provence Shipowner 2008-1 Ltd）、法国达飞轮船有限公司（CMA CGM SA）、罗克韦尔航运有限公司（Rockwell Shipping Limited）船舶污染损害责任纠纷再审案中，厘清了有关国内法与国际条约的调整边界，明确了船舶碰撞事故中非漏油船一方的油污损害赔偿责任及其相关的责任限制与责任限制基金分配规则，合理平衡了主权国家海洋环境利益与航运经营者商业利益之间的关系，展现了中国海洋生态司法保护的专业化水平。厦门海事法院审理的巴拿马籍“正利洛杉矶(APL LOS ANGELES)”轮燃油泄漏导致海洋污染损害责任纠纷案，邀请生态环境技术专家参与调解，发挥专业人士作用促成当事人达成调解协议，并将案件的受理情况和调解协议内容予以公告，保障了公众对海洋环境治理的参与和监督。海口海事法院审理首起由检察机关提起的海洋行政公益诉讼案件，责令海洋环境监督管理部门限期履职，履行了有效督促行政部门依法履职，保护海洋自然资源和生态环境的职责。海口海事法院发布海洋环境资源审判白皮书（2018-2020），总结海洋环境资源审判工作经验，提炼相关法律问题及解决建议，打造海洋环境资源保护亮点品牌。上海海事法院组建海洋环境保护专业审判团队，聘任专家陪审员和特邀咨询员，设置专业鉴定机构名录，不断完善专业化审判机制。专业化的审判实践，为确保海洋环境审判的高水准、高质效奠定了坚实基础。
维护航运商贸秩序。一是依法审结涉及货物运输、综合物流、船舶碰撞等各类海事案件，保障航运安全，维护国际物流供应链的稳定，引导航运市场规范有序健康运行，服务航运经济发展。厦门海事法院在福建元成豆业有限公司与复兴航运有限公司（REVIVAL SHIPPING CO.,LTD）海上财产损害责任纠纷一案中，明确货物等级和品质指标不属于承运人提单批注义务的范围，为海运实务操作提供指引，维护提单在国际贸易中的流通性，保障交易安全和资金融通。宁波海事法院在蒋某某与林某某船舶碰撞损害责任纠纷案件中，准确解读船员无证驾驶与船舶所有人丧失海事赔偿责任限制的关系，对进一步规范水上交通秩序、维护船舶航行安全具有积极意义。武汉海事法院审理的中国科学院水生生物研究所与润航船务有限公司船舶触碰损害责任纠纷案件，判决船舶所有人和经营人对造成的养殖设施和珍稀鱼类物种损害承担连带赔偿责任，对加强船舶经营管理、维护长江航行秩序、促进长江经济带绿色可持续发展，具有积极的引领和规范作用。大连海事法院灵活运用海事强制令，帮助数百家进口冷链企业解决清关难题，加速疫情期间滞港集装箱及所载货物的流转，将船货双方的损失降至最低，促成海上货物运输、国际贸易和生产加工等一系列合同的顺利履行，为疫情下企业复工复产提供强大助力。二是加强对船舶修造、航运融资、航运保险等涉船舶先进制造业、现代服务业发展案件的审理，促进海事金融产业活跃增长，推动船舶产业转型升级，拓展航运服务产业链，助力优化航运发展软环境。上海海事法院审理的启东市顺丰远洋渔业公司与上海振华重工启东海洋工程股份有限公司船舶建造合同纠纷案件，综合双方当事人履约情况，准确认定违约责任，在国家大力推进远洋渔业发展背景下，对妥善化解因履行周期长、变更次数多、涉及金额高而引发的类似船舶建造合同纠纷，支持远洋渔业规范发展具有一定的参考意义。厦门海事法院审结标的额1.4亿元的厦船重工股份有限公司申请实现海事担保物权纠纷案，单个案件标的额创年度新高。天津海事法院于2018年发布《船舶融资租赁案件审判白皮书》及典型案例，做好相关法律问题解读和风险提示，积极为海事金融改革创新保驾护航。2021年5月上海海事法院发布中英文《服务保障船舶产业发展审判情况通报》，梳理相关工作举措、问题建议和典型案例，充分体现了海事司法为推动船舶产业持续健康发展、提升国际竞争力发挥的重要作用。
营造市场化法治化国际化营商环境。全国海事审判三级法院依法行使管辖权，恪守国际条约义务，尊重意思自治，准确适用准据法,妥善审理涉外涉港澳台案件，平等保护中外当事人合法权益,不断提高海事审判的国际公信力和影响力，为优化营商环境、服务高水平对外开放发挥司法护航作用。厦门海事法院在益利船务有限公司与施某某等光船租赁担保合同纠纷案件中，认定非对称管辖权条款（Asymmetric Jurisdiction Clause）有效，体现了对当事人意思自治的充分尊重，符合国际商事海事交往的发展趋势和实践需求。南京海事法院在审理挪威籍船东BOA BARGES AS与南京奕淳船舶制造有限公司船舶建造合同纠纷一案中，双方当事人主动协商变更原先的伦敦仲裁和适用英国法的约定，选择在南京海事法院提起诉讼并适用中国法，法院用时27天化解持续5年的纠纷，展示海事司法的中国速度。青岛海事法院在依法扣押马绍尔群岛籍“尼莉莎（M/V NERISSA）”轮案中，外方当事人放弃伦敦仲裁，在法院促成下达成和解协议，新船东特意将船舶更名为“尊重（Respect）”，致敬中国法治。上海海事法院准确适用英国判例法审理胜船海事公司（Winship Maritime Inc.）船舶建造佣金合同纠纷案，双方当事人均服判息诉，实现准确适用外国法定分止争的良好效果，为涉外商事海事审判中外国判例法的查明与适用提供了实践样本，该案例刊载于英国知名出版社INFORMA PLC.出版的《中国海事商事法律报告》（《Chinese Maritime and Commercial Law Reports》）并收录于其电子数据库。朝鲜籍船舶“秃鲁峰3（TU RU BONG 3）”轮与韩国籍货船“海霓（HIGHNY）”轮在非我国管辖海域发生碰撞，双方当事人合意选择由上海海事法院行使管辖权并适用中国法。该案以及宁波、海口等海事法院审理的多起国际海事纠纷均系与中国没有连结点的外方当事人主动选择在中国海事法院提起诉讼，体现了对我国海事司法的信任，彰显了海事审判服务国家对外开放，营造稳定、公平、透明、可预期营商环境取得显著成效。
各海事法院创新司法举措，全方位保护船员合法权益。一是制定船员人身损害纠纷、劳务纠纷简案快审操作规程，开通绿色通道，做到“快立、快保、快审、快执”，缩短船员合法权益实现的周期。二是构建“诉前联动纠纷解决”机制，与政府部门建立协作机制，快速高效化解纠纷。三是加大司法救助力度。积极申请司法救助金，保证疫情防控期间因案致困致贫船员维持基本生活。四是为国际船员的遣返提供人道主义援助。青岛海事法院审理的利比里亚籍“狮子（Sam Lion）”轮、广州海事法院审理的希腊籍“天使力量（Angelic Power）”轮等船员劳务合同纠纷案件中，各海事法院在依法扣押拍卖外轮过程中，安全、高效遣返外籍船员，赢得外国外交机构和外方当事人的高度评价，为妥善处置疫情期间全球性海员遣返难题、帮助航运企业复工复产提供了“中国方案”。五是大连、厦门等海事法院专门发布涉船员纠纷审判情况专项报告，通报基本情况、工作亮点、审判观点和意见建议，延伸海事司法服务，不断提升船员的幸福感、安全感和获得感，促进了航运业的良性发展。
2019年2月，最高人民法院审理的浙江隆达不锈钢有限公司诉A.P.穆勒-马士基有限公司(A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S)海上货物运输合同纠纷案、阿昌格罗斯投资公司(Archangelos Investments E.N.E.)“加百利（Archangelos Gabriel）”轮海难救助案和阿斯特克有限公司（ASTKCO.，LTD）申请设立海事赔偿责任限制基金案入选最高人民法院第21批指导性案例。2019年12月，天津市高级人民法院二审的吕某某等79人诉山海关船舶重工有限责任公司海上污染损害责任纠纷案入选最高人民法院第24批指导性案例。海事指导性案例归纳了具有普遍指导意义的法律适用规则，积极回应海事司法实践中反复出现但仍有争议的法律问题或者新类型案件的裁判规则，为同类案件的裁判提供了具体、明确的指导和参照。
建设全新中国海事审判网。2021年最高人民法院规划“中国海事审判网”，打造一体化智能平台，由广东省高级人民法院支持、广州海事法院承建。网站并存中、英文两种界面，设置内外网两个平台，覆盖全国11家海事法院及其上诉审高级人民法院和最高人民法院的海事审判业务，面向中外当事人提供网上立案、线上庭审、云端执行等在线诉讼服务，打造全能化数字海事诉讼新模式；面向社会公众和专家学者发布权威海事司法信息、展示海事司法成就，拓展海事司法的公众传播力；面向海事法官提供辅助办案、科学管理的智慧支撑，满足海事审判工作需求。网站打通、链接、融合人民法院各类信息化平台，通过信息共建共享共用，实现“智服、智宣、智审、智管”多重功能，推动海事审判与智慧法院建设深度融合，促进提升海事审判智能化水平。网站设置的The Voice of Judge（法官说法）、船舶扣押拍卖、船舶数据分析系统、船舶评估系统、海事司法案例库等具有海事特色的栏目和功能，对于便利当事人诉讼、提升海事审判质效、展示海事审判成就、提高海事司法影响力、推动海事审判高质量发展具有重要意义。
China Maritime Trial (2018-2021)
The vast and azure ocean carries the long-standing dream of mankind. In realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, it is of vital strategic importance to pursue coordinated land and marine development, and to step up efforts to build China into a strong maritime country. Maritime trials safeguard the construction of a strong maritime nation in accordance with the law, and shoulder the responsibilities of safeguarding the national marine rights and interests, protecting the marine ecological environment, and promoting the high-quality development of the marine economy.
Since the establishment of the Maritime Courts, China’s maritime trial has been increasingly sophisticated day by day. China has become a maritime judicial center in the Asia-Pacific region and is moving towards the goal of building an international maritime judicial center.
During the period from 2018 to 2021, the global trade situation has become more complicated and volatile, and the fluctuation of the world shipping economy has intensified.With the far-reaching impact of the pandemic, the evolution of the unprecedented change of the century has accelerated. With Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as guidance, the courts participating in maritime adjudication nationwide thoroughly study and implement Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law. Committed to the original aspiration and mission, they serve and safeguard the overall layout of the Party and the government, and give full play to the functions and roles of maritime trials. Thus, new progress in all aspects of work and the further expansion of international influence are achieved. China maritime trial is geared towards the goal of building an international maritime judicial center. By gathering the strength to forge ahead, it strives to write a new chapter in the field.
I. General Introduction of Maritime Trial and Enforcement Nationwide
(I) Overall situation
From 2018 to 2021, the courts participating in maritime adjudication nationwide (Maritime Court; High People’s Court in the place where the Maritime Court is located; Supreme People’s Court) accepted 132,633 cases of marine and maritime disputes, maritime administration, maritime crimes, and maritime enforcement. 133,309 cases have been concluded.
Annex 1: The Statistics of Maritime Trial and Enforcement Cases Accepted in China (2018-2021)
Annex 2: The Statistics of Maritime Cases Concluded in China (2018-2021)
(II) Brief Introduction of Maritime Cases by Category
From 2018 to 2021, 89,384 cases of marine and maritime disputeshad been accepted, and 88,764 cases had been concluded (60.78% of which were cases of maritime disputes, 16.7% of which were cases of special maritime procedure, 7.67% of which were cases of marine disputes and 14.85% of which were other maritime cases). 4,339 maritime administrative cases had been accepted, 4,227 of which had been concluded. The maritime courts accepted 45 maritime criminal cases on a pilot basis (not including cases of designated jurisdiction and cases of instruction upon request), including 41 cases from the Ningbo Maritime Court and 4 cases from the Haikou Maritime Court.
Annex 3: The Proportions of Different Types of Maritime Cases in China (2018-2021)
Annex 4: The Proportions of Different Causes of Action of Maritime Cases in China (2018-2021)
(III) Situation of Cases involving Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan,and Foreign Elements
From 2018 to 2021, courts at three levels nationwide accepted 10,397 cases involving foreign elements and 2,693 cases involving Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan elements. Among them, 10,611 cases involving foreign elements and 2,782 cases involving Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan elements were concluded after being heard. 9,226 cases involving foreign elements and 1,410 cases involving Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan elements were accepted by the eleven maritime courts. And 9,437 cases involving foreign elements and 1,435 cases involving Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan elements were concluded after being heard. The cases covered more than 100 countries and regions. The country which is the most frequently involved in the above-mentioned cases is Bahamas, followed by the United States, Singapore, Germany, and Denmark.
(IV) Situation of Vessel Seizure and Auction
From 2018 to 2021, 2,717 vessels had been seized by the eleven maritime courts, including 105 foreign-flagged vessels and 24 vessels registered in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. 1,252 vessels had been auctioned, including 30 foreign-flagged vessels and 9 vessels registered in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. Flag countries on the top lists of seized vessels are Russia, Panama, Liberia, Marshall Islands, and Vietnam. Flag countries on the top lists of auctioned vessels are Liberia, Panama, Marshall Islands, Belize, and Singapore.
(V) Situation of Enforcement
From 2018 to 2021, 38,795 cases of maritime enforcement had been accepted by eleven maritime courts and 39,897 cases had been concluded.
Annex 5: The Statistics of Maritime Enforcement Cases Accepted and Concluded in China (2018-2021)
II. Giving Full Play to the Functions of Maritime Trial in an Aide to Build China into a Strong Maritime Country
Building China into a strong maritime country is one of the major strategic tasks for realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation as well as an important part of the socialist cause with Chinese characteristics. Directly serving shipping for foreign trade and marine development, maritime trials are closely related to China's judicial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. They shoulder the important task of serving and safeguarding the construction of a strong maritime nation. The courts participating in maritime adjudication nationwide have taken the initiative to serve and safeguard the overall layout of the Party and the government by giving full play to the functions of maritime trials, firmly safeguarding China’s maritime rights and interests, vigorously promoting the development of the marine economy, and protecting the marine ecology. They have made positive contributions to serving and safeguarding a high-standard opening-up and the construction of a strong maritime nation, and achieved remarkable and outstanding results.
(I) Adhering to scientific planning to serve and safeguard the national strategy
In order to give full play to the important role of maritime trials in serving and safeguarding major national strategies and promoting the construction of a new development pattern, the Supreme People's Court (SPC) has deepened its top-level design and encouraged engagement with local governments with the aim of serving and safeguarding a high-standard opening-up and the construction of a strong maritime nation. From 2018 to 2021, it had issued a series of judicial documents including Opinions on Providing Judicial Services and Protection for Hainan's Comprehensively Deepening Reform and Opening-up, Opinions on Providing Judicial Services and Protection for the Construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, Opinions on the People's Courts to Further Provide Judicial Services and Protection for the Construction of the Belt and Road Initiative, Opinions on the People's Court to Provide Judicial Services and Protection for the Construction of the Lingang Special Area of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone, Instruction Opinions on the People's Courts to Serve and Safeguard the Further Expansion of Opening-up, Opinions on Supporting and Safeguarding the Construction of Shenzhen into a Pilot Demonstration Area of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, Opinions on the People's Courts' Provision of Judicial Services and Protection for the Construction of the Hainan Free Trade Port, Opinions on the People's Courts to Support and Safeguard the High-standard Reform and Opening-up of the Pudong New Area to Build a Pioneer Area for Socialist Modernization. With these documents, the Supreme People's Court has guided maritime courts at all levels to improve judicial efficiency, innovate trial mechanisms, strengthen team building, and give full play to the important role of maritime justice in safeguarding national maritime rights and interests, protecting the marine ecological environment, and promoting the development of the marine economy. In this way, they serve to provide judicial services and protection for the construction of the Hainan Free Trade Port, the enhancement of the international competitiveness of the port cluster at Pearl River Delta, the construction of Shanghai towards a global hub port, the integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta, the construction of Shenzhen towards the leading maritime capital of the world, the core area construction of Pudong towards an international shipping center, and the construction of a new western land-sea corridor, etc. Considering their respective geographical advantages, the maritime courts in various regions actively met the new needs of local maritime justice, formulated corresponding implementation opinions, and issued briefings and typical cases on the implementation of the national strategies including provisions of maritime judicial services to ensure high-standard opening-up, coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the construction of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone, the integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta and the high-quality development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt. Their various practical measures have achieved outstanding results.
(II) Exercising maritime judicial jurisdiction in accordance with the law and protecting national maritime rights and interests
Maritime courts in China exercised judicial jurisdiction in accordance with the law over the waters under China's jurisdiction to protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese and foreign parties on an equal footing, and safeguarded China’s maritime rights and interests. In May 2018, Xiamen Maritime Court public announced the judgment in the case of Chen and Zhan v. Arize Navigation Corporation in a dispute over liability for ship collision damage, and all parties were satisfied with the verdict. As the second case that occurred in the waters of the Diaoyu Islands accepted by the Maritime Court of China, it fully demonstrated that the people’s courts have consistently exercised effective judicial jurisdiction over the waters under China’s jurisdiction in accordance with the law. In October 2020, the SPC designated the Haikou Maritime Court as a pilot court with jurisdiction over maritime criminal cases to hear a case against a foreign fisherman called Van for his crime of illegally entered the territorial sea of China located in the South China Sea to fish for aquatic products and supplementary environmental public interest litigation in criminal proceedings. The Haikou Maritime Court delivered a public verdict on 3 March 2021, sentencing the defendant Van to a fixed-term of imprisonment and deportation for the crime of illegal fishing of aquatic products, confiscating the tools and illegal proceeds of the crime, and bearing the costs of ecological restoration and ecological assessment. Defendant Van accepted the judgment and waived his right to appeal. This was a maritime criminal case in which foreigners illegally entered South China Sea within China’s jurisdiction to fish for aquatic products. It is a typical case of China's maritime justice in strengthening the protection of the marine ecological environment, combating illegal and criminal marine activities, and exercising judicial jurisdiction in accordance with the law over the waters under China's jurisdiction, which highlighted the important role of maritime justice in safeguarding China's maritime rights, interests and security.
Maritime courts innovated the mechanism and system for safeguarding maritime rights and interests, and gave full play to functional roles of the maritime adjudication. The Haikou Maritime Court issued the Working System for Maritime Circuit Courts and Island Trials to set up maritime circuit courts, and conducted maritime trials and promoted public awareness of rule of law. At the same time, an island trial site was established on Jinqing Island in Xisha while a regular office rotation was carried out on Yongxing Island where the Sansha division is located. Maritime courts strengthened maritime judicial jurisdiction in various forms over the waters under China's jurisdiction, demonstrating the attitude, responsibility, and commitment to firmly guard the maritime rights and interests of China.
(III) Strengthening judicial protection of marine environment to safeguard marine ecological civilization construction
The protection of marine natural resources and the ecological environment is the fundamental requirement and basic guarantee for accelerating the construction of a strong maritime country while realizing the harmonious coexistence of humans and the sea. Constantly increasing judicial protection of the marine environment and providing strong services and safeguards for promoting marine the ecology are urgent matters. As one of the important forces in marine ecological environment protection, maritime justice has been actively exploring and developing judicial protection practices of the marine ecological environment, and building a strong judicial defense line to protect the azure sea and blue sky.
Improving the Supporting System of Adjudicatory Rules. Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court on Several Issues Concerning the Trial of Cases of Compensation Disputes Arising from Marine Natural Resource and Eco-Environmental Damage, which came into effect on 15 January 2018, defined the nature and claimant for compensation in such litigation and perfected the general rules and alternative methods for loss assessment. The provisions played an important role in standardizing adjudicative criteria and comprehensively strengthening the judicial protection of the marine environment. Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court on Several Issues Concerning the Trial of Cases of Compensation Disputes Arising from Oil Pollution Damage of Ships, revised in 2020 clarified the jurisdiction, limitation of liability, defenses of insurers or financial guarantors, and the scope of compensation of such disputes, which provided a convincing basis for the protection of the marine environment and fully reflected the spirits of the international conventions to which China had acceded, such as the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage. The clear adjudicatory rules in maritime judicial practices have enriched and developed the system of judicial rules concerning the marine ecological environment. The Haikou Maritime Court heard the case of Hainan Lingao Yinghai Shipping Co., Ltd. v. the Fisheries Administration Detachment of Sansha City over an administrative penalty. With the proper application of relevant laws and judicial interpretations, the judgment provided equal judicial protection for the coral and tridacna in the appendix of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to maintain the safety of the ecological environment of the sea area of Sansha. The Beihai Maritime Court heard the case of the Beihai Naizhi Marine Technology Co., Ltd. v. Ocean and Fishery Bureau of Beihai City over administrative penalties. The case clarified the subject of illegal reclamation, the yardstick of joint illegal activities, and the rules of how maritime administrative penalty discretion should be exercised, which was of positive significance for the safety of the national coastline and the marine ecological balance. The above two cases were selected into the 31st batch of guiding cases on biodiversity conservation of the SPC, which established the adjudication standards and methods for similar cases.
Carrying out professional trial practices in an orderly manner. The maritime courts at three levels nationwide have continuously strengthened the specialized maritime adjudicative mechanism to ensure that the trial of cases is of high quality, and to enhance judicial protection of the marine environment. In the retrial of the case of disputed liability for ship pollution damage among the Shanghai Salvage Bureau of the Ministry of Transport and Provence Shipowner 2008-1 Ltd, CMA CGM SA, and Rockwell Shipping Limited, the SPC clarified the boundary between relevant domestic laws and international treaties, and elaborated upon the compensation for oil pollution damage of the party of the non-leaking ship in the collision, as well as the relevant limitation of liability and the allocation rules of funds for the limitation of liability. In this case, the marine environmental interests of the sovereign state and the commercial interests of shipping operators have been reasonably balanced, and the professionalism of China’s judicial protection of marine ecology has been demonstrated. In the case of a dispute over the liability for marine pollution damage caused by the fuel leakage of the Panamanian Vessel APL LOS ANGELES heard by the Xiamen Maritime Court, experts in ecological environmental technology were invited to the mediation to facilitate the reaching of an agreement between the parties concerned, and the adjudication of the case and the contents of the mediation agreement were publicly available to ensure the public’s participation and supervision in the country’s marine environmental governance. The Haikou Maritime Court heard the first public interest litigation case of maritime administration started by the procuratorial organ. The court ordered the departments of marine environment supervision and administration to perform their duties within a time limit, fulfilling its duty to urge the administrative departments to perform effectively in accordance with the law to protect marine natural resources and the ecological environment. The Haikou Maritime Court issued the White Paper on the Trials of Marine Environmental and Resource Cases (2018-2020), which summed up the experience of trials of marine environmental resources cases, summarized relevant legal issues and solutions, and built a brand of marine environment and resource protection. The Shanghai Maritime Court has appointed expert jurors and specially invited consultants, set up a category of professional appraisal institutions, and established a professional trial team for marine environmental protection to continuously perfect the specialized maritime adjudicative mechanism. These professional trial practices have laid a solid foundation for ensuring the high standard, high quality, and efficiency of trials concerning the marine environment.
Establishing an efficient cooperation mechanism of judicial protection. The maritime courts firmly adhered to the concept of integrated development of both the ecological environment and the economy, and worked together to present a high-level model of judicial cooperation in terms of marine ecology. The Maritime Courts in Guangzhou, Haikou, and Beihai jointly built a judicial cooperation platform for marine environmental protection and shared the benefits. They created a alliance from the Beibu Gulf to the Qiongzhou Strait for marine environmental resource protection, and successfully handled public interest litigation cases of the marine environment across sea waters with the help of the mode of online mediation and offline collaboration. The Maritime Courts in Tianjin, Dalian, and Qingdao signed a framework agreement, established a mechanism for joint meetings, and carried out coordination and in-depth cooperation in terms of the judicial protection of the ecological environment of the Bohai Sea. All the maritime courts have actively functioned in the multi-departmental consultation mechanism under the leadership of the local party committee or the local government and strengthened coordination and cooperation with the procuratorial organ, public security, and judicial administrative organs. The Beihai Maritime Court has established a mechanism of cooperation, communication, negotiation, and information sharing with the Maritime Safety Administration, the Coast Guard, and the Oceanic Administration to jointly safeguard the marine ecological environment and the safety of the Beibu Gulf.
(IV) Deeply implementing the strategy of high-quality maritime trials and ensuring the high-quality development of the marine economy
Bearing the big picture of overall economic and social development in mind, the courts at the three levels nationwide have been consistently promoting the opening-up and ocean development and utilization, and facilitating foreign trade, the shipping economy and the construction of international and regional shipping centers. They have optimized the allocation of trial resources and strengthened the sense of high-quality trials to enhance the credibility and influence of maritime trials and expand the breadth and depth of their services for the development of the marine economy.
Maintaining the order of shipping and trade. Firstly, the courts have handled various maritime cases involving cargo transportation, integrated logistics, and ship collisions in accordance with the law to ensure the safety of shipping, maintain the stability of the international logistics supply chain, guide the shipping market to operate orderly and healthily under the rules, and serve the development of the shipping economy. The Xiamen Maritime Court, in the case of the dispute over the liability for maritime property damage between Fujian Yuancheng Soybean Co., Ltd. and Revival Shipping Co., Ltd. , clarified that it is not the carrier’s obligation to provide the information of cargo grade and quality index while filling the bill of lading, which provided guidance for shipping practices, maintained the liquidity of bills of lading in international trade, and ensured transaction security and financial integration. The Ningbo Maritime Court, in the case of Jiang and Lin’s ship collision damage liability dispute, accurately interpreted the relationship between the unlicensed driving of the crew and the ship owner’s loss of the limitation of liability for maritime compensation, which had a positive effect on further standardizing the shipping order and ensuring the safety of shipping. The Wuhan Maritime Court heard the case of a collision between the Institute of Hydrobiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Runhang Shipping Co., Ltd., and decided that the owner and operator of the ship took joint and several liability for the damage to the aquaculture facilities and rare fish species. The judgment played an active role in strengthening the operation and management of ships, maintaining the shipping order of the Yangtze River, and promoting the green and sustainable development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt. The Dalian Maritime Court flexibly took advantage of the maritime injunction to help hundreds of cold chain importing companies to solve customs clearance problems, which accelerated the circulation of stranded containers and cargoes during COVID-19 pandemic, minimized the losses of both the shippers and the carriers, facilitated the smooth implementation of a series of contracts concerning maritime cargo transportation, international trade, production and processing, and provided a strong boost for enterprises to resume operations under COVID-19 pandemic. Secondly, the courts strengthened the trial of cases involving the advanced ship manufacturing industry and the modern service industry, such as ship repair and construction, shipping financing, shipping insurance, etc., to promote the active growth of the maritime financial industry, speed up the transformation and upgrading of the shipbuilding industry, expand the shipping service industry chain, and help create a favorable environment for shipping development. The Shanghai Maritime Court heard the case of dispute over the shipbuilding contract between Qidong Shunfeng Ocean Fishery Co., Ltd and Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Qidong Marine Engineering Co., Ltd. Based on the performance of the contract of the two parties, the court accurately determined the liability for breach of contract, which, in the policy context of the country’s strong support for pelagic fisheries, might serve as a reference for properly resolving disputes over similar ship building contracts caused by long performance periods, frequent changes, and high amounts of money involved, and vigorously supporting the regulated development of pelagic fisheries. The Xiamen Maritime Court concluded the case of Xiamen Shipbuilding Industry Co., Ltd. applying for the realization of rights for maritime security, which recorded the largest value of subject matter (RMB 140 million) of the year. The Tianjin Maritime Court issued the White Paper on Trial of Ship Financial Leasing Cases and typical cases in 2018, which provided detailed interpretations for relevant legal issues and risk warnings, and ensured the reform and innovation of maritime finance. In May 2021, the Shanghai Maritime Court issued the Report on Trials Involving the Shipbuilding Industry in both Chinese and English, which reviewed relevant work initiatives, suggestions for solving problems and typical cases, and fully reflected the role of maritime justice in promoting the sustainable and healthy development of the shipbuilding industry and enhancing its international competitiveness.
Promoting the development of the marine economy. Firstly, the maritime courts have heard disputes over port operations, wharf construction, and port dredging in accordance with the law to assist in the transformation and upgrading of coastal ports, promote the optimization and integration of port resources, and serve and guarantee the construction of gateway ports. The Beihai Maritime Court heard the case of the construction contract dispute between CCCC-Tianjin Dredging Co., Ltd. and Fangcheng Port Group Co., Ltd., in which it took the interests and demands of various parties involved into full consideration, and determined the liability of all parties according to the law. All of the parties were satisfied with the first instance judgment. This case fully reflected the support of maritime trials for the construction of new ports and the shipping industry and marine development, and thus the construction of the marine industry system could also be well advanced. Maritime courts, including the Nanjing Maritime Court and the Tianjin Maritime Court, have paid close attention to the development of new technologies in the field of ports and shipping, and have issued timely safeguard measures for the construction of green ports and smart ports to provide judicial assistance for the construction of world-class ports. The Ningbo Maritime Court issued the Report on the Trial of Disputes in the Construction of Marine Projects such as Ports and Wharves in 2020. It has put forward targeted legal suggestions based on the features of the disputes to provide judicial guarantees for deepening the implementation of supply-side structural reforms in the fields of sea and port and carrying out the development strategy of “One body -Two wing- Multiple connections” for the ports in Zhejiang Province. Secondly, the courts have properly heard cases involving marine engineering, cruise tourism, and marine development and utilization, and given full play to the functions of maritime justice in resolving conflicts and disputes regarding the marine economy and promoting the operation of marine economic elements, promoting scientific marine development and utilization, and providing judicial support for the development of competitive marine industries and emerging industries. The Xiamen Maritime Court successfully concluded a number of cases concerning marine engineering, novel marine industries and business forms, represented by the disputes over compensation for the damage to aquaculture caused by the construction of an offshore wind farm with a total investment of nearly RMB 5 billion as such providing strong judicial support for the innovation of marine engineering equipment and the development of the marine economy. The Qingdao Maritime Court and the Shandong Provincial Higher People’s Court tried the case of a construction contract dispute concerning Shenlan No.1, China’s first full-submersible deep-sea aquaculture equipment. The courts reasonably divided the responsibilities of the two parties and determined the amount of loss. They took into account of not only the legitimate rights and interests of the investors, but also the innovation enthusiasm of R&D and construction institutions, and actively explored the post-judgment mediation model to enable both parties to reach a settlement based on the judgment and voluntarily fulfilled the performance. It became a typical case of a new type, which guaranteed the success of domestic deep-sea fishery scale aquaculture and helped to improve the scale and technologies of China’s marine cage aquaculture. The Shanghai Maritime Court heard the case of a personal injury liability dispute at sea between Yang and British Carnival Cruise and made a judgment based on the accurate application of the Athens Convention Relating To The Carriage Of Passengers And Their luggage By Sea, 1974, to which China has acceded, which provided judicial guidance for building the demonstration area of cruise tourism development and promoting the construction and further upgrading of the soft power of the Shanghai International Shipping Center. After the judgment, the defendant not only paid compensation in a timely manner, but also took active improvement measures. The case was included in the maritime caselaw database of the National University of Singapore.
Creating a market-oriented international business environment under the rule of law – The courts participating in maritime adjudication nationwide exercise jurisdiction in accordance with law, perform obligations under international treaties, uphold the principle of party autonomy, properly determine which law shall be applied in the event of disputes, deal with foreign-related maritime cases and cases involving Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan elements, impartially protect the legitimate rights and interests of the parties concerned regardless of nationality, and continuously improve the international credibility and influence of maritime trials. China’s maritime courts play an important role as guardian in optimizing the business environment and serving high-level opening up. The Xiamen Maritime Court ruled that the Asymmetric Jurisdiction Clause was valid in the case of a dispute over bareboat charter and guarantee between Good Vantage Shipping Limited and the Shi. The Court’s respect for party autonomy is in line with the development trend and practical needs of international commercial and maritime dispute settlement. In the dispute over shipbuilding contract between Norwegian shipowner BARGES AS and Nanjing Yichun Shipbuilding Co., Ltd., both parties agreed to submit the dispute to the Nanjing Maritime Court for adjudication with Chinese law to apply .The dispute was originally agreed to be arbitrated in London and governed by English law. It took the Nanjing Maritime Court only 27 days to settle the six-year long dispute, becoming a vivid demonstration of the efficiency of China’s maritime trial. In the case concerning the arrest of M/V Nerissa, the foreign party gave up right to arbitration in London and reached a settlement agreement thanks to the efforts of the Qingdao Maritime Court. The new shipowner renamed the vessel “Respect” to pay tribute to China’s maritime justice. The Shanghai Maritime Court applied English case law to the dispute over a shipbuilding commission contract between Winship Maritime Inc. and China Shipping Industry Co., Ltd and facilitated a settlement, which provided a model for foreign commercial and maritime trials in the ascertainment and application of foreign case law. The case was included in the Chinese Maritime and Commercial Law Reports published by well-known UK publisher INFORMA PLC as well as its database. In the case of a dispute arising from the collision of DPRK vessel MV TU RU BONG 3 and ROK vessel HIGHNY in a sea area not under the jurisdiction of China, both parties agreed that the dispute should be handled by the Shanghai Maritime Court with Chinese law to apply. In this case, neither the parties nor the accident concerned had any connection with China. Their decision to file lawsuits in the Chinese Maritime Court reflects international recognition and trust of the quality of China’s maritime trials and highlights that maritime trial serves China’s opening-up strategy and helps create a business environment that is stable, fair, transparent, and predictable.
(V) Protecting the legitimate rights and interests of crew members to promote the healthy and stable development of the shipping industry
Protecting the legitimate rights and interests of crew members is of great significance to marine traffic safety and the healthy and stable development of the shipping industry. In 2020, the SPC published the Judicial Interpretation Regarding the Trial of Crew Members Related Cases, which provides guidance on issues in the settlement of crew disputes including differentiating legal relationship between labor contracts, service contracts, and agency contracts and their respective different solutions, protection of maritime liens, and the right of crew members to salaries. On June 25, the “Day of the Seafarer”, the SPC published eight typical cases concerning the protection of interests of crew members in maritime disputes, covering issues including the specific determination of maritime liens, the elimination of an urban-rural gap in compensation for personal injuries, and the maritime liens on advance disbursement by a third party. This embodies the Socialist core value of integrity and good faith, and serves as a supplement to the incomplete laws and regulations, showing that maritime trials play an important role in protecting the legitimate rights of crew members, maintaining the order of the shipping industry, and promoting the high-quality and healthy development of the maritime service industry.
China’s maritime courts have taken the various innovative measures to protect the legitimate interests and rights of crew members. Firstly, a fast trial procedure to resolve disputes concerning personal injuries and labor disputes has been developed to provide a fast track for less complicated cases and to accelerate the fulfillment of crew members’ legitimate interests and rights. Secondly, a pre-litigation dispute settlement mechanism featuring collaboration with government agencies has been developed to promote efficient resolution. Thirdly, more financial support has been provided to help the crew members impoverished by disputes arising during COVID-19 pandemic prevention and control to allow them receive legal aid to make ends meet. Fourthly, more humanitarian assistance has been provided for stranded foreign crew members. As is shown in the case concerning Liberian M.V. “Sam lion” adjudicated by the Qingdao Maritime Court, and the case concerning Greece M.V. Angelic Power adjudicated by the Guangzhou Maritime Court, China’s maritime courts have done a good job in the repatriation of foreign crew members during the lawful arrest and auction of foreign vessels, winning recognition from foreign diplomatic authorities and foreign parties concerned. This provides a China’s model for courts worldwide to repatriate foreign crew members during COVID-19 pandemic, representing China’s wisdom to help promote work and the resumption of production by shipping companies. Fifthly, the Dalian, Xiamen and other Maritime Courts have specifically issued special reports on the trial of disputes involving crew members, reporting the basic situation, work highlights, trial views and opinions and suggestions, extending maritime judicial services, and continuously improving crew members' sense of happiness, security and gain, and promoting the sound development of the shipping industry.
III. Promoting the Establishment of the International Maritime Court Center through Continuous Optimization of the Trial Mechanism and Capacity Building
With the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, the international shipping center continues to transfer to the Asia Pacific region and China. Maritime justice constitutes an important part of the soft power of an international shipping center. The continuous growth of China's shipping trade has provided more impetus for maritime trial development. It has become an urgent practical need and a necessary path to enhance the international influence of China’s maritime justice.
(I) Optimizing the maritime legal mechanism to provide institutional guarantees for maritime trials
With the development of the shipping trade and the amendment of relevant laws, many problems have arisen during the implementation of the Maritime Law of the People’s Republic of China and the Special Maritime Procedures Law of the People’s Republic of China. It is thus imperative to improve and optimize the maritime legal framework with distinct features and rational practicability. In September 2018, the amendment of the Maritime Law was listed among the legislative projects announced by the Standing Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress. The amendment was led by the Ministry of Transport, and the SPC was deeply involved, calling on experienced maritime judges across China to engage in discussions and contribute judicial advice to the revision based on maritime trial practices. In July 2019, to optimize the maritime litigation system with Chinese characteristics and speed up efforts to build an international maritime judicial center, the SPC set up a working group to explore the necessity and feasibility of amending the Special Maritime Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China. In November 2021, after considering various opinions, the SPC submitted the Report on Proposed Amendments to the Special Maritime Procedure Law of the People's Republic of China to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, which provided specific amendment suggestions, promoting the incorporation of the amendments into China’s legislative plan. Highly praised by the National People’s Congress Legislative Affairs Commission, the report reflects SPC’s achievements in reviewing the judicial practice of maritime litigation in the past three decades, as well as its determination to establish China’s maritime procedure law as an international model and promote China’s advanced maritime legislative and judicial practices to the world.
In February 2019, the case involving a dispute over contracts of goods transportation in sea between Zhejiang Longda Stainless Steel Co., Ltd and A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, the case involving a dispute over the salvage fees of Archangelos Gabriel owned by Archangelos Investments, and the case in which ASTK CO., LTD. applied for the constitution of a limitation fund for maritime claims, which were all decided by the SPC, were selected by the SPC as the 21st batch of guiding cases. In December 2019, the case filed by 79 fishermen including Lv against Shanhaiguan Shipbuilding Industry Co., Ltd. was selected by the SPC as the 24th batch of guiding cases. Maritime guiding cases deduce the applicable rules with general significance and represent a positive response to recurring yet still controversial legal issues in maritime judicial practice, providing specific and clear guidance for the adjudication of similar cases.
In June 2020, the SPC issued the Guiding Opinions (III) on Several Issues concerning the Proper Trial of Civil Cases Related to the COVID-19 pandemic (the “Opinions”). The Opinions provide guidance on how to deal with COVID-19 related civil cases concerning issues including shipping contracts and shipbuilding and crew member disputes to facilitate a settlement between the parties concerned. The Opinions are included in the Case Law on UNCITRAL Texts. In December 2021, the SPC issued the Conference Summary on the 2021 National Symposium on Foreign-Related Commercial and Maritime Trial Work, which provides guidance for maritime cases concerning shipping contracts, maritime property rights, judicial review of arbitration cases, service in foreign-related cases, and the application of law, etc., serving as important guidelines for national maritime trials. Between 2018 and 2021, the SPC had released 41 typical cases in total, fully demonstrating the important role of maritime trials in improving maritime judicial mindset, unifying trial standards, and improving litigation services. This will help optimize the trial rules and improve the influence and credibility of maritime trials.
(II) Innovating working mechanisms to improve the maritime trial system
Continuous efforts have been made to optimize the maritime judicial landscape. To serve the development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt and the integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta region and meet diversified public needs for judicial services, China has made significant adjustments to maritime judicial resources. In 2019, the Nanjing Maritime Court was established. To provide more convenient litigation services, the Wuhan Maritime Court set up the Wuhu Division, the Shanghai Maritime Court set up the Changxing Island Division, and the Ningbo Maritime Court set up the Ningbo Pilot Free Trade Zone Division. The establishment of the Hangzhou Division is under preparation. The divisions of the maritime courts were integrated into the international and regional shipping centers, pilot free trade zones, blue economic zones, and industrial parks in their locality, earning high praise from local authorities and government organs. Currently, considering that geographical scope of the jurisdiction of maritime courts is of a great length and breadth, 11 maritime courts in China have established 42 divisions and multiple circuit detachment to provide better service support for maritime trials and to provide greater convenience for the parties.
The trial mechanism for maritime administrative litigation matures more. The mechanism supports and supervises maritime administrative organs to perform their duties in accordance with law, promotes unified standards of administration and law enforcement, and protects the legitimate interests and rights of the parties concerned, playing an important role in optimizing the legal environment, the business environment, and the ecological environment of maritime industry. The case of a dispute over an administrative penalty imposed on a Sanwu ship（ships without ship name and number, ship certificate and port of registration）adjudicated by the Ningbo Maritime Court reflected that maritime judicial institutions provided strong support and effective supervision to help maintain the shipping order, and to protect personal safety, properties, and the marine environment. In the case filed by Fujian Quanzhou Haisi Vessel Assessment Consulting Co., Ltd. against Ocean and Fishery Bureau of Fuding City,the Xiamen Maritime Court entered a judgment to confirm the illegality of the administrative act of the Ocean and Fishery Bureau of Fuding City for abuse of administrative power and hampering of competition. The case set a good example for the handling of administrative offenses such as abuse of power, playing an important role in urging maritime authorities to exercise administrative power in accordance with law and promoting a sound market environment that allows transparent and fair competition. In the case of a dispute over an administrative penalty between Tianjin Zhizhen Chemical Engineering Technological Development Co., Ltd. and Beijiang Maritime Safety Administration and the Tianjin Maritime Safety Administration, the Tianjin Maritime Court set a good example to regulate the management and transport of hazardous chemicals. The maritime courts across China have made proactive efforts to communicate and coordinate with administrative organs, and the mechanism featuring the collaboration between maritime courts and administrative organs continues to improve. The Ningbo Maritime Court joined hands with the Department of Justice of Zhejiang Province to set up the Zhejiang Maritime Mediation Center for Administrative Disputes, reflecting remarkable progress in the substantial settlement of maritime administrative disputes. Maritime courts including the Dalian Maritime Court, the Tianjin Maritime Court, the Xiamen Maritime Court, and the Ningbo Maritime Court released white papers on maritime trials of administrative cases and typical cases and provided sound advice to help strengthen law-based administration from the perspectives of justice.
Making steady progress to set up pilot courts for maritime criminal cases. The SPC has steadily promoted the establishment of pilot maritime courts to exercise jurisdiction over maritime criminal cases. Following the designation of the Ningbo Maritime Court to serve as a pilot court to exercise jurisdiction over maritime criminal cases in February 2017, the SPC also designated the Haikou Maritime Court to accept two cases in which the defendants committed the crime of illegal fishing of aquatic products, and authorized the Higher People's Court of Hainan Province to designate the Haikou Maritime Court to serve as a pilot court to exercise jurisdiction over specific types of maritime criminal cases. As pilot courts with jurisdiction over maritime criminal cases, the Ningbo and Haikou Maritime Courts have been actively exploring a working mechanism with the investigation and public prosecution authorities to align the procedures of maritime criminal cases. The Higher People's Court of Hainan Province and the People's Procuratorate of Hainan Province jointly issued the Opinions on Establishingthe Working Mechanism for Designated Jurisdiction of Individual Maritime Criminal Cases (For Trial Implementation), which created standards for procedures regarding the transfer and prosecution of maritime criminal cases. The Ningbo Maritime Court and the People's Procuratorate of Zhoushan City signed the Summary of Strengthening Coordination and Cooperation to Promote High-quality Development of Maritime Trial and Marine Prosecution, and continued to strengthen cooperation and consultation and explore relevant working mechanisms with the investigation and public prosecution authorities, and other relevant government bodies with the support of the Higher people's Court of Zhejiang Province.
(III) Strengthening the building of the litigation service system and building a preferred forum for resolving maritime disputes
Improving judicial services. On 30 August 2019, maritime courts took the lead in achieving cross-regional case filings, allowing the parties to go through the filing procedures of all maritime courts at any maritime court across the country. Maritime courts across the country have also successively provided litigation services such as cross-regional material transfers, file retrieval and review, and document collection, and offered Chinese and foreign parties litigation guidance, case inquiry, and other services through Internet, thoroughly removing the geographical restrictions of jurisdictions. Maritime courts across China have continued to carry out patrol hearing, dispute mediation, and promotion of legal awareness in remote areas such as fishing villages and docks, aiming to bridge the last gap in providing access to maritime judicial services. The maritime courts have also established regular exchange mechanisms with shipping and trading enterprises to understand judicial needs, provide judicial services, and help them prevent and mitigate legal risks, which has significantly expanded the influence and scope of maritime justice. The maritime courts of Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan, and Ningbo have actively responded to the judicial needs and concerns in the integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta, taken the initiative to provide services integrated into the development of the Yangtze River Delta, strengthened cross-regional judicial cooperation, and jointly created a benchmark for judicial cooperation among maritime courts. In order to further facilitate foreign-related trials, the Shanghai Maritime Court has explored and promoted a mechanism for judicial recognition of the general authorization for a maritime litigation agency and recognized foreign parties’ right to authorize law firms and lawyers in China or their branches in China to represent them in litigation within a certain period and a certain scope, resolving the problem of the overly long period of foreign-related trials due to the procedures of authorization, entrusted notarization and certification, and greatly improving the efficiency of case handling. 10 maritime courts have set up bilingual websites in Chinese and English to display China’s maritime justice to the world. The Higher People’s Court of Liaoning Province is equipped with a simultaneous interpretation room for foreign-related maritime trials, enabling multilingual simultaneous interpretation of trials. The Xiamen Maritime Court provides English translations for references for some civil judgments. The Shanghai Maritime Court has launched a bilingual maritime litigation guideline in Chinese and English. The Guangzhou and Ningbo Maritime Courts provide multilingual litigation services for foreign parties. Pioneering the usage of multiple languages, the maritime courts have facilitated litigation services for the parties, and have told the Chinese story of maritime justice in a way that can be seen and understood both at home and abroad, and have further enhanced the influence of maritime justice across the world.
Promoting the diversified resolution of maritime disputes. Maritime courts across the country insist on resolving disputes at the source, providing services with a forward-thinking mindset, putting the alternative dispute resolution mechanism in the forefront, and pushing forward the development of the two “one-stop” mechanisms so as to provide multiple channels for dispute resolution. The Nanjing Maritime Court has set up one-stop dispute resolution centers for disputes over marine accidents, port disputes, and fishery disputes in places that frequently witnessed such cases and advocated the pre-litigation resolution of cases. The Tianjin Maritime Court has established a Mediation Center for Freight Agency Disputes in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region to specifically serve maritime freight forwarding agencies. Cooperating with the China Maritime Arbitration Commission, the Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Tianjin, and other maritime courts have established the entrusted arbitration and mediation mechanism in maritime cases. The Shanghai Maritime Court and the China Maritime Arbitration Commission have jointly issued the White Paper on Entrusted Mediation in Maritime Cases, giving full play to the advantages of arbitration institutions and resulting in an increasing success rate of dispute resolution. The Dalian Maritime Court has set up a Litigation- Mediation center in its headquarters and dispatched divisions to help build a market-oriented，rule-of-law based and international business environment with high-quality and efficient dispute resolution services. The Qingdao Maritime Court has reached an agreement with the Ocean and Fishery Bureau in Rongcheng, the Fishery Association in Weifang, and other entities on pre-litigation mediation, fuel subsidies for fishing boats, and other matters, providing a smooth channel between litigation and mediation. The Ningbo Maritime Court has issued a white paper on the maritime “Fengqiao Experience”, summarizing and promoting the experience in a timely manner. The establishment of one-stop diversified dispute resolution mechanisms and one-stop litigation service centers of the maritime courts has displayed outstanding features and yielded fruitful results.
Enhancing the transparency of maritime justice. Maritime courts across the country have actively expanded channels of judicial publicity, enhanced publicity effects, and established an open, dynamic, transparent, and convenient maritime judicial mechanism. From 2018 to 2021, maritime courts across the country successively had published 55 annual white papers which feature trial reports on maritime trials in both Chinese and English, covering the comprehensive work of maritime courts and many specific legal topics such as ocean freight contracts, ship collisions, ship co-ownership, marine fisheries, maritime enforcement, etc., and disclosing trial enforcement data, work highlights, issue suggestions, typical cases, and other aspects in an all-round manner, which is unique in the court system nationwide and presents a real, multi-dimensional, and panoramic view of Chinese maritime justice to continuously improve its transparency and expand domestic and international influence. In 2020, the Dalian Maritime Court ranked first among the Intermediate People’s Courts in Liaoning province in terms of the number of adjudicative documents published online and the effective publicity rate of the judicial process on the website “China Judicial Process Information Online”. The Institute of Law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has paid continuous attention to the judicial transparency of maritime courts in China, successively published reports on the transparency index of maritime justice in China, and given positive comments on the judicial transparency measures taken by maritime courts, such as the release of typical cases and the construction of foreign-language websites.
(IV) Attaching Importance to Team Building and Maritime Judicial CapacityBuilding
Strengthening training and research. Firstly, training on practical skills has been strengthened. The SPC and relevant Higher People’s Courts have regularly carried out practical training on maritime trials and given targeted instruction and guidance to enhance the overall capacity of maritime trial teams. Secondly, more research on the rule of law has been carried out. Having successively established the international maritime judicial bases in the Shanghai Maritime Court, the Zhejiang Higher People’s Court, and the Guangzhou Maritime Court, the SPC has given full play to the role of international maritime judicial bases, paid close attention to edge cutting issues and new situations and problems with respect to maritime justice theories and practices, strengthened forward-looking investigation and research, and enhanced the pertinence and timeliness of judicial investigation and research in order to explore theoretical and practical approaches for building the international maritime justice center, and helping to build a maritime community with a shared future. Thirdly, academic exchanges have been deepened. The maritime courts have actively established various academic exchange platforms to encourage judge, assistants and clerks to improve their academic research capabilities. The Ningbo, Guangzhou, and Xiamen Maritime Courts have successively held National Maritime Trial Seminars in line with the national development strategy and maritime trial practice, and have promoted the more profound and practical research of maritime trial theory. The Guangzhou Maritime Law Forum held by the Guangzhou Maritime Court and the academic events and annual meetings of the Wuhan Maritime Court held by the Yangtze River Maritime Law Society have preliminarily become high-level and nationally renowned maritime and commercial law academic platforms. Maritime judges have been active in the China High-end Forum of Maritime Law, the East Asia Forum of Maritime Law, and the annual meetings of local maritime law societies, contributing wisdom to various maritime academic studies and demonstrating their brilliance. The continuous strengthening of training and research has laid a solid foundation for improving the ability of maritime adjudication and building high-quality professional teams for maritime trials.
Expanding international exchanges. The SPC held the Maritime Silk Road (Quanzhou) International Forum on Judicial Cooperation in October 2021, at which in-depth discussions were carried out with representatives from 21 countries including Brazil, Russia, Singapore, and South Africa as well as the International Maritime Organization, the International Seabed Authority, and other international organizations on hot maritime issues such as legal issues concerning the protection of marine natural resources and ecological environment, international recognition of the judicial sale of ships, and the protection of the rights and interests of crew members during the COVID-19 pandemic, gathered the consensus of countries on jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative and building a marine community with a shared future, and boosted mutual learning, exchanges and cooperation in the field of justice among the participants. The SPC continued to appoint representatives to actively participate in the formulation of the Draft Convention on the International Effects of Judicial Sales of Ships (Beijing Draft), playing an important role in finalizing the draft convention, and continuously enhancing the international discourse and influence of China's judicial system. By appointing talents from maritime courts to participate in international forums and seminars on the rule of law, including those between China and the United Kingdom, France, Singapore, and Africa, as well as international conferences on the study of legal issues relating to negotiable multimodal transport documents, more and more Chinese judges have stood out on the international stage to interpret China’s experience in the rule of law and contributed Chinese wisdom to the formulation of international rules. The Guangzhou Maritime Court and the Law School of Dalian Maritime University co-organized the “East Asia Maritime Law Forum”, providing a platform for maritime judges to communicate with maritime law scholars, maritime lawyers, and shipping industry professionals from Hong Kong SAR, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. The increasingly close international exchanges have created a practical platform for the cultivation of specialized interdisciplinary maritime trial teams with international vision, who are proficient in international maritime law, and familiar with international shipping practices.
(Ⅴ) Enhancing the support of modern technology and promoting the application of information technology in maritime trials
Building a new China Maritime Trial website. In 2021, the SPC planned to build the “China Maritime Trial” website, an integrated smart platform, to be implemented by the Guangdong Higher People’s Court and the Guangzhou Maritime Court. With both Chinese and English versions and two platforms for LAN and WAN network connection, the website covers the maritime trials of 11 Chinese maritime courts, and their corresponding Higher People’s Courts and the SPC for appeal trials, and creates a new model of all-round digital maritime litigation services that provides Chinese and foreign parties with online case filing, online trials, cloud enforcement, and other online litigation services. Moreover, the website publishes authoritative maritime judicial information to the public, experts, and scholars to showcase maritime judicial achievements and expands the influence of maritime justice, and equips maritime judges with smart platforms that provide assistance in case handling and management to satisfy the demands of maritime trial work. Connected with and integrated into various information platforms of People’s Courts, the website realizes multiple functions of “smart services, publicity, trial and management” through joint information development and sharing to promote the deeper integration of maritime trials and the building of smart maritime courts, so as to ensure smart maritime trials. The website sets up columns and functions with maritime characteristics, such as “The Voice of the Judge”, “Ship Seizure and Auction”, “Ship Data Analysis System”, “Ship Assessment System” and “Maritime Judicial Cases” which are of great significance in facilitating litigation, improving the quality and efficiency of maritime trials, demonstrating maritime trial achievements, enhancing maritime judicial influence, and promoting the high-quality development of maritime trials.
Promotingthe development of smart maritime courtswith distinct characteristics. Relying on the application of information technology and big data, maritime courts across the country have actively developed tools with distinct characteristics to assist adjudication, thus utilizing more information technology in maritime trials. The “Ship Assessment System” developed by the Guangzhou Maritime Court enables the value assessment of ships free of charge in a fast and accurate manner by building a systematic data model based on ship value assessment methods, which saves time and costs for the parties compared with the traditional method of value assessment, and provides green, environment-friendly and low-carbon professional data references for case mediation and ship auction. The “Ship-Cargo-Port Data Integrated Intelligent Supporting System” developed by the Shanghai Maritime Court has four major functions: real-time ship inquiry, trajectory tracking, collision simulation, and early warning and tracking. Based on big data, the system provides intelligent analysis of collision facts and the causes of collision in maritime tort disputes, thus providing digitalized assistance to judges to hear cases. The maritime judicial case database established by the Ningbo Maritime Court, based on the International Maritime Justice Base of the Supreme People’s Court in Zhejiang, is the first Internet maritime legal service platform in China that deeply integrates professional services for the knowledge of maritime law and intelligent analysis of case-based big data. By the end of 2021, the column of maritime trialsin the case database had included 122,115 adjudicative documents, covering all kinds of maritime professional data resources needed by maritime judges to handle cases, and providing reliable guarantees for the effective operation of the compulsory retrieval mechanism for similar and related cases, which is beneficialto regulate judges’ discretion and unify adjudication standards. The data-based, digital, and intelligent development of maritime trials have integrated judicial and digital technologies and combines offline and online litigation, resulting in the reform of litigation modes. During COVID-19 pandemic, maritime courts, on top of the achievements of developing smart courts, have effectively mitigated the impact of the pandemic on litigation activities. They effectively provided all-round and full-process “contactless” online litigation services for Chinese and foreign parties, so as to achieve “no suspension of trial and enforcement, with non-stop fairness and justice”. It is fair to say technology-enabled maritime justice shows bright prospects.
The report of the 20th CPC National Congress pointed out, “promote high-level opening-up”, “develop marine economy, protect the marine ecological environment, and accelerate to build China into a marine power.”The Outline of the 14th Five-year Plan for Economic and Social Development and Long-range objectives through the Year 2035 of the People’s Republic of China put forward: “Adhere to the coordinated development between land and sea, maintain harmony between people and ocean, achieve win-win cooperation, and coordinate the promotion of marine ecological protection, economic development and protection of rights and interests, in order to speed up the construction of China into a strong maritime country”, and “strengthen maritime justice, and resolutely safeguard the country’s maritime rights and interests”. Facing new situation and new tasks, under the guidance of the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the courts participating in maritime adjudication nationwide will continue to thoroughly implement the Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law, seriously study and implement the spirit of the 20th CPC National Congress, give full play to the functions of the maritime trial, and promote maritime work with stamina and diligence to increase achievements. The courts will continue to contribute judicial wisdom and strength to building a modern marine industry, a sustainable marine ecological environment and deeper participation in global ocean governance with best judicial practice. As the Chinese saying goes, constant dropping wears the stone. In this spirit, China’s maritime trial is accelerating along the road of building an international maritime judicial center and participating in the construction of a community with a shared future for the oceans.
I. Maritime Judicial Interpretations Issued and Revised during 2018-2021
II. Maritime Guiding Cases and Typical Cases Released during 2018-2021