The nation's top court Wednesday pledged to build China into an Asian-Pacific maritime law center by 2010.
China is "one of the Asia-Pacific countries with the most maritime judicial bodies and the strongest adjudicatory capacity," said Wan Exiang, vice president of the Supreme People's Court.
The court is working on detailed measures and a timeline.
Speaking at a seminar in Beijing, Wan said that establishing credibility is still crucial to realizing that goal. "The key lies in fair judgments that establish the authoritativeness (of the Chinese maritime courts) among litigants both at home and abroad."
The call accompanies efforts by the Supreme People's Court to make local courts fair and efficient.
China has 10 maritime courts along its coast and the Yangtze River, one of the nation's busiest waterways. Last year they handled nearly 9,700 cases, a huge jump from the few dozens handled by each court every year when they were first created two decades ago.
"We should note there is still room for growth in cases involving overseas litigants," said Cao Jianming, also a vice president of the Supreme People's Court.
By the end of last month, such cases accounted for less than 14 percent of the total caseload.
Unlike the people's courts whose jurisdiction coincides with the administrative reach of governments on different levels, the 10 maritime courts are cross-provincial. They have effectively warded off local protectionism.
More than 70 percent of the judges have at least four years of college and are among the best in the nation.
Still, said Cao, maritime legislation is also needed. Apart from further developing laws on oil pollution and shipping, such legislation as the Maritime Law needs revision.
China set up the first maritime courts in 1984.
(China Daily June 24, 2004)