Judicial system for maritime affairs

Updated : 2016-10-27

The Supreme People's Court and the Ministry of Transport established a maritime court in Shanghai, Tianjin, Qingdao, Dalian, Guangzhou and Wuhan on June 1, 1984, to better meet the needs of marine transport and foreign trade development. The NPC Standing Committee approved legislation concerning the maritime court’s founding, supervision, and jurisdiction, and its power to and appoint and remove judicial personnel. The Supreme People's Court later stipulated the maritime court’s institutional powers including case jurisdiction and territorial scope. The maritime court is on a par with local intermediate people's courts. Maritime courts in Haikou and Xiamen were also established in 1990, a Ningbo court in 1992 and a Beihai court in 1999 by the Supreme People's Court. The national maritime court has set up 39 detached tribunals in important port cities under its jurisdiction. Those cities are spread across 15 provinces (and municipalities and autonomous regions). Maritime judicial work covers all ports and waters from Heilongjiang in the north to Xisha, Zhongsha, Nansha and Huangyan Island in the south.

A local higher people's court has become an appellate maritime court in its region. The appellate court set up a specialized collegiate bench for maritime appeal cases. The Supreme People's Court established an adjudication division for transport in March 1987 which became the fourth court for civil affairs in 2000. That court hears major national maritime cases in the first instance and cases under appeal or set for retrial after a higher people’s court’s hearing. It also offers supervision and guidance for various maritime courts and their appellate courts.

With development of ocean utilization and transport, maritime courts deal with an increasing number of varied cases. The number of maritime cases has continued to grow by around ten percent year-on-year. To date, there are 63 kinds of maritime disputes, including sea damage, collision, ship maintenance, marine transport contracts, third-party logistics contracts, ship financing leasing and sea development and utilization.  

The national maritime affairs judicial team has actively applied domestic and international laws and regulations to deal with cases involving global shipping powers and China’s major trade partners in more than 70 countries and regions. The team has protected legitimate rights of maritime parties and ensured scientific development of China’s reform, opening-up, shipping trade and marine economy. With China’s continuously increasing credibility, more than 100 foreign maritime cases that don’t involve China will now be assigned to the country’s maritime courts each year. These developments show that China’s maritime legislation level has improved and is recognized by the international community.  

China’s strategy of developing the ocean to invigorate the country and the Belt and Road Initiative have brought unprecedented opportunities and challenges to maritime judicial work, which will focus on national development strategies in future. Relevant parties will strive to build internationally influential maritime judicial procedures and contribute to realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.