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Chinese maritime courts had entertained few maritime salvage disputes by the time the Chinese Maritime Code came into force in 1993. Judicial practice in Chinese courts has developed since then. Nanhai Rescue Bureau of the Ministry of Transport v Archangelos Investments ENE and Another is a recent and important case on maritime salvage under contract in China. This case has gone through five years of trials in the Guangzhou Maritime Court, the Guangdong High People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Court of China. This case raised the persistent issue of applicable law and the new issue of the assessment of the salvage payment in proportion under the Chinese maritime law of salvage. This article examines the issues in this case in relation to the International Convention on Salvage and the Chinese Maritime Code.
The People’s Republic of China (hereafter “PRC”) promulgated the Chinese Maritime Code 1992 (hereafter “CMC 1992”) which came into force in 1993, and acceded to the International Convention on Salvage 1989 (hereafter “Salvage Convention 1989”) in 1993. The provisions for salvage at sea in CMC 1992 were drafted on the basis of the Salvage Convention 1989.1 Therefore, the relevant provisions in CMC 1992 are very similar to the provisions in the Salvage Convention 1989. Domestic salvage at sea in China is regulated by CMC 1992.2 Foreign-related salvage is governed by CMC 1992 and the Salvage Convention 1989 if the latter contains provisions differing from those contained in CMC 1992,3 unless the provisions are those on which China has announced reservations.4 In the recent case of Nanhai Rescue Bureau of the