A general introduction to the law and practice of maritime transport 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 in terms of cargo tonnage, with Shanghai consistently at the top of the list.2 In 2020, China was the third largest shipowner in terms of freight transport capacity (228 million deadweight tonnage (DWT)).3 In 2019, China held the largest share of the global gross tonnage (GT) of shipbuilding (23.074 million gross tonnes) and dry bulk carrier, general cargo, container and offshore vessel construction.4 China’s expertise in this sector continues to develop.
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 tonnes of natural gas, 83.217 million tonnes of soybeans, 975.204 million tonnes of iron ore and 458.56 million tonnes of crude oil. Despite the recent slowdown in the growth of the Chinese economy, this level of demand secures the place of China as one of the most important players in the field of maritime transport.
General overview of the legislative framework
The Chinese Maritime Code governs commercial contracts (transport of goods and passengers by sea, charter parties, towing), admiralty (collisions, rescue, 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 Rules of Law relating to Bills of Lading of 1968 (The Hague-Visby Rules), the Athens Convention 1974 Convention on the Carriage of Passengers and Their Luggage by Sea (the Athens Convention), the 1989 International Rescue Convention (the 1989 Rescue Convention), the Limitation of Liability for Claims Maritime Rules of 1976 (the LLMC Convention of 1976) and the York Convention Antwerp Rules. In addition, China is party to a number of international maritime security conventions. These international conventions will prevail in the event of conflict between them and Chinese laws.