A general introduction to maritime law and practice in China
All the questions
Business overview of the shipping industry
China is playing an increasingly central role in the global shipping industry. It is home to seven of the world’s 10 busiest ports by cargo tonnage, with Shanghai consistently at the top of the list.2 In 2020, China was the third largest shipowner in terms of cargo carrying capacity (228 million deadweight tonnage (DWT)).3 In 2019, China held the largest share of the world’s gross tonnage (GT) in shipbuilding (23.074 million gross tons) and in the construction of dry bulk carriers, general cargo ships, container ships and offshore vessels.4 China’s expertise in this sector continues to grow.
Although known for its exports of manufactured goods to all corners of the globe, China is also a major importer of raw materials. According to customs information,5 from January 2020 to October 2020, China imported 81.261 million tons of natural gas, 83.217 million tons of soybeans, 975.204 million tons of iron ore and 458.56 million tons of crude oil. Despite the recent slowdown in the growth of the Chinese economy, this level of demand secures China’s place as one of the most important players in the maritime transport sector.
General overview of the legislative framework
The Chinese maritime code governs commercial contracts (carriage of goods and passengers by sea, charter parties, towing), admiralty (collisions, salvage, general average, limitation of liability) and marine insurance. It adopts many provisions of international rules and conventions, including many elements of the Protocol amending the International Convention for the Unification of Certain Laws Relating to Bills of Lading of 1968 (Hague-Visby Rules), the Athens Convention on the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea 1974 (the Athens Convention), the International Convention on Salvage 1989 (the 1989 Salvage Convention), the Convention on the Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims of 1976 (the LLMC Convention of 1976) and the Antwerp Rules of York. In addition, China is a party to a number of international maritime safety conventions. These international conventions shall prevail in the event of any conflict between them and Chinese laws.