Huang & Huang Case | Our case selected as a typical foreign-related civil and commercial case applying international treaties and practices

29.12.2023 |NEWS&ARTICLES
On 28th December 2023, the Supreme People’s Court of the PRC (the “SPC”) held a press conference on the application of international treaties and judicial interpretations for international practices and typical foreign-related civil and commercial cases associated therewith. Wang Shumei, Member of the Trial Committee of the SPC, Shen Hongyu, President of the Fourth Civil Division of the SPC, Hu Fang, Vice President of the Fourth Civil Division of the SPC, and Yang Xingye, Senior Judge of the Fourth Civil Division of the SPC attended the conference, releasing the Interpretation of the SPC on Several Issues Concerning the Application of International Treaties and International Practices to the Trial of Foreign-Related Civil and Commercial Cases, together with associated Typical Cases, and answering questions from journalists. The conference was presided over by Wang Bin, Deputy Director of the Information Bureau of the SPC.

A case handled by us arising from dispute over liability for ship collision between Guangzhou Shipping Supplies Co. and Tan Binh Co., Ltd. was selected as a typical foreign-related civil and commercial case of the SPC on the application of international treaties and international practices.

The SPC pointed out that the people’s courts had complied with the principles of international law, fulfilled their obligations under the treaties in good faith, accurately interpreted and applied international treaties and international practices in their work of adjudicating foreign-related commercial and maritime affairs, and tried a number of cases of typical significance, denoting China’s concepts, propositions and successful practices of the rule of law in relation to foreign affairs, and making an important contribution to the service of opening up to the outside world at a high level.

Application of International Treaties in Light of Special Provisions in China
Accurately Determining the Fault of Each Party in Collision - Dispute Between Guangzhou Shipping Supplies Co. and Tan Binh Co., Ltd. over Liability for Ship Collision

On 5th October 2020, a collision occurred between MV “DA QING 226”, owned by Guangzhou Shipping Supplies Co. (“Shipping Supplies Co.”), and MV “TAN BINH 245”, owned by Tan Binh Co., Ltd. (“Tan Binh Co.”). Guangzhou Nansha MSA issued a Decision on Liability for Marine Accident, stating that the accident was mainly caused by the failure of MV “DA QING 226” to keep a proper lookout, to take proper crossing measures, and to fulfill her obligation as a give-way vessel to keep out of the way of the other vessel navigating along the channel; and was secondarily caused by the failure of MV “TAN BINH 245” to sail at a safe speed, and her any neglect of any precaution required by the special circumstances of the case. Shipping Supplies Co. claimed that MV “TAN BINH 245” should be held 70% liable for the collision.

Judgment Outcome
Guangzhou Maritime Court held that since both China and Vietnam were acceded to, and chose to apply, the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (“COLREGs”), the COLREGs should be applied in this case to deal with the substantive dispute. Rule 1(b) of the COLREGs stipulates that “[n]othing in these Rules shall interfere with the operation of special rules made by an appropriate authority for roadsteads, harbours, rivers, lakes or inland waterways connected with the high seas and navigable by seagoing vessels”. As the subject collision occurred in the Pearl River waters under the jurisdiction of Guangdong MSA, which is a river connected with the high seas and navigable by sea-going vessels, the fault in the collision involved can be determined in accordance with the COLREGs and the Provisions on the Safe Navigation of Vessels under the Jurisdiction of the Guangdong Maritime Safety Administration (the “Navigation Provisions”). M/V “DA QING 226” had fault for deviating from the obligations on maintaining a proper look-out, keeping out of the way of the other vessel and avoiding crossing ahead of the other vessel as stipulated in the COLREGs; while M/V “TAN BINH 245” had fault for deviating from the obligations on safe speed, avoiding collision and speed limitation for a vessel navigating along the channel when passing through the crossing area under the COLREGs. Accordingly, Shipping Supplies Co. was adjudged to bear 65% of the liability for the collision, while Tan Binh Co. bear 35% of the liability therefor.

Typical Significance
The COLREGs is an international convention that provides for the common observance of rules on maritime traffic on the high seas and in all navigable waters connected to the high seas in order to ensure the navigation safety of  ships and to prevent and minimize collisions. On 7th January 1980, China acceded to the COLREGs, since which the COLREGs have become the main rules in China for navigation by vessels on coastal waters and waters connected with the seas and navigable by vessels, and also serve as an important basis for maritime courts to determine the apportionment of liability for collision between vessels. This case, in which the proportion of fault between both parties to the collision was accurately determined based on the Steering and Sailing Rules established by the COLREGs, and in light of the Navigation Provisions formulated by China’s shipping authorities, provides a good model for the application of laws in similar cases.

Previously, a number of our cases have been selected into the “Top Ten Cases to Promote the Rule of Law” and the “Top Ten Typical Cases of China’s Maritime Trials” by the SPC, as well as included into the “Top 10 Typical Cases Arising from Cross-border Disputes in Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area”, the “Top 10 Typical Cases on Enforcement of Hong Kong Arbitral Awards by Mainland Courts”, and the “Outstanding Cases of Legal Services in Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area for 2019-2022”. This time, the case handled by us was again selected as a typical foreign-related civil and commercial case of application of international treaties and international practices by the SPC, which fully demonstrates our team members’ accurate understanding of applying international treaties and international practices in handling foreign-related commercial and maritime case and their skillful control of the case. We always keep improving in the maritime filed, using every effort to serve our clients and pursue excellence in each case.

Looking forward, in the new year of 2024, we will, bearing in mind the trust of our clients, practice the professional ethics of maximizing clients’ rights and interests, and continue to uphold the concept of “dedication, professionalism, and excellence”, towards a more promising new future on the road of high-quality legal services.