By Tian Baicheng
LONG WITH THE RAPID development of China's shipping and foreign trade, internal and external disputes on marine casualties and maritime commerce increasingly arise. As a result, maritime courts were established in principal port cities of China in 1984, in accordance with the decision by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC).
This action was taken in order to exercise China's judicial jurisdiction and to ensure timely trial of those cases to safeguard lawful rights and interests of both Chinese and foreign enterprises, organizations and citizens. The action was also taken to accelerate the development of China's shipping and foreign trade, to ensure the policy of opening door to the outside was carried out, and to invigorate the domestic economy.
Being a part of the state's judicial organs, the maritime court is at the same level with the intermediate people's court and is the special court of the first instance in dealing with internal and external maritime commercial and/or admiralty cases.
So far, there have been ten maritime courts in China, which are Beihai, Dalian, Guangzhou, Haikou, Ningbo, Qingdao, Shanghai, Tianjin, Wuhan and Xiamen. They respectively exercise jurisdiction over the coastal waters and their extensions for the provinces in which they are located. The Wuhan Maritime Court's jurisdiction area is the Yangtze River.
The maritime court has jurisdiction on whole cases arising from shipping, water transportation and majority of trade case in which the maritime factors are always involved. Maritime Code of PRC, General Rules of Civil Law and other relevant commercial laws are applied for determining the merits. The international customs and practices will be referred if Chinese laws keep silence on the matter.
In consideration of the special nature of shipping and trade cases, the Standing Committee of National People's Congress adopted Special Procedure Law for Maritime Lawsuit on 25th, December 1999, which put into force on 1st July 2000. The Special Procedure Law is a comprehensive procedure rules covering almost the whole special aspects of maritime lawsuit which are relating to jurisdiction, Preservation of Maritime Claim, Maritime Injunction, The Evidence Preservation, Maritime Security, Service of Legal Documents, Procedure of Trial, the Procedure of Constituting a Limitation Fund, The Procedure of Credit Registration and Compensation, The Publicizing Notice for Maritime Lien and so on.
According to the general principle of law application, the Special Procedure Law of Maritime Lawsuit is applied with priority and, if it keeps silence, Civil Procedure Law will be referred as general procedure rule when maritime court and high court, as second instance court of maritime court, as well as the Supreme Court try the maritime/admiralty cases.
It took 6 years for drafting the Special Procedure Law of Maritime Lawsuit, meanwhile the view of almost every circle involved in sea affairs were consulted, such as expert, professor, lawyer, judge, seaman, the officer of port administration and so on. Moreover, the international customs and practices were also absorbed.
Undoubtedly, with the establishing of maritime courts and adoption of Special Procedure Law, the rights and interests of both Chinese and foreign parties would be safeguarded soundly.
Web Law Review, 2001
Text and Photo ©
2001, Tian Baicheng
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