To strengthen maritime legal and dispute resolution services

Hong Kong is one of the busiest and most efficient international container ports in the world, connecting to some 420 destinations around the globe. Last year, it handled 18.3 million containers. Through effective governance, policies and practices, Hong Kong is always committed to consolidating its role as an international maritime centre. With the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) setting up its China Liaison Office in Hong Kong last year, this establishment of the first overseas ICS office outside London reflects our efforts in promoting high-end maritime services. It also reaffirms the unique status and advantages enjoyed by Hong Kong under the "One Country, Two Systems" principle and explains the attractiveness for international bodies to set up offices here.

The maritime industry covers a wide spectrum of services and plays a pivotal role in our trade and economic development. Facing an uncertain global economic outlook and fierce competition from nearby regions, Hong Kong must make the best use of its maritime “software” such as maritime legal services, ship finance and marine insurance in addition to the existing well-established port infrastructure. We also need to grasp the opportunities brought by the Belt and Road Initiative and the Greater Bay Area development with a view to enhancing our role as a maritime hub.

The Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) has recently announced its adoption of the BIMCO Law and Arbitration Clause 2020 which includes Hong Kong as one of the four designated arbitration venues. This decision not only recognises Hong Kong’s increased popularity as a centre for dispute resolution, but also reflects Hong Kong’s position as a leader in the area of international maritime arbitration. This favourable outcome is a result of the concerted effort in promoting maritime arbitration by the Hong Kong Maritime Arbitration Group, Hong Kong Shipowners Association as well as various government departments over the years. My gratitude is also extended to the China Shipowners’ Association and COSCO shipping, representing the maritime transport sector and shipping industry of China respectively, for their unfailing support to our maritime legal and dispute resolution services.

BIMCO is a renowned and leading NGO in the shipping industry and is specialised in promoting global standard forms. The new BIMCO Law and Arbitration Clause 2020 incorporates the specific provisions of each venue for users’ selection and also includes new and useful provisions relating to the serving of notices. We hope this will help attract more maritime arbitrations to be conducted in Hong Kong, with a view to enhancing and promoting Hong Kong’s status as an international legal hub for legal, deal-making and dispute resolution services.

Hong Kong has always been the prime international logistics hub in Asia with our world-class infrastructure and diversified talent pool in areas such as law, financial services, accounting, insurance, transport and logistics, as well as aviation and shipping. Since the 1950s, Hong Kong has developed its international and domestic operations in logistics. Over the years, we have established a valuable global network and accumulated ample experience, thereby facilitating Hong Kong to become an unparalleled supply chain base and a hub for cargo and transport routes via land, sea and air.

At the same time, Hong Kong provides a wide range of maritime services including arbitration and dispute resolution. We have lawyers and arbitrators from different professional backgrounds and jurisdictions. A number of them are professionally trained in maritime business and proficient in both English and Chinese, coupled with Western experience and knowledge of Chinese practices. They are able to offer high-end maritime law and arbitration services to shippers, shipowners and commodities owners in aspects such as ship financing, shipbroking and maritime insurance.

Arbitration is a way of dispute resolution based on the agreements of the parties concerned as set out in the contract. When the parties concerned agree to submit the dispute to arbitration, the arbitration tribunal shall make the decision which is final and binding on the parties concerned. Under the current situation of global economic growth, arbitration is an important means to resolve disputes.

Hong Kong has enormous potential to become an international hub for high-end maritime services. The Department of Justice will continue to create a favourable environment for the development of maritime arbitration to form a good synergy with shipping and port operations. We must also capitalise on our solid foundation and further explore international markets to complement the rapid development of China as the second largest economy in the world.

October 31, 2020