China / Government

Marine courts told to do better as cases surge

By Xie Chuanjiao in Qingdao and Cao Yin in Beijing (China Daily) Updated: 2015-12-17 07:49

China's marine courts should improve their service and build up a reputation, as the number of marine disputes heard in the country has surged in recent years, according to the head of the top court.

Ten Chinese marine courts have handled 30,819 cases so far this year, an increase of 43 percent year-on-year, of which 26,464 have concluded, according to the Supreme People's Court.

To better serve litigants involved in the rising number of marine disputes, the court is planning to build a platform for judicial communications and a database of foreign marine laws, Zhou Qiang, president of the top court, said on Wednesday, without elaborating.

The changing situation has "set higher requirements on our marine courts in case hearings", he said.

From 2011 to 2013, the 10 courts, including one in Qingdao, Shandong province, and one in Xiamen, Fujian province, heard 30,723 cases, with 4,454 of them involving foreign litigants.

Foreign-related marine cases heard by the 10 courts involved 73 countries and regions, including Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom, according to court figures.

Zhou asked the marine courts to strictly enforce international conventions covering maritime disputes and to strengthen cooperation with nations in the Asia-Pacific region, through which many global shipping routes pass.

"In this way, we can improve our judicial capability," he said.

He also asked the courts to respect foreign litigants' right to select marine courts to file their cases.

A judge specializing in marine cases at the top court, who declined to be named, outlined the major challenges such courts face when dealing with international maritime disputes.

They include the application of international marine laws, delays in tracking judicial documents and difficulties in gaining evidence in cases of shipping collisions.

The judge said this is why the top court plans to set up a platform for interaction in handling marine cases and a database to give judges easier access to foreign laws.

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