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Forum shopping for limitation following a collision - Sanchi & CF Crystal

There is no natural forum for a collision case and this can lead to multiplicity in proceedings as was seen most recently in The Sanchi. She had collided with CF Crystal in China’s EEZ in 2018 and the collision led to death of 32 seafarers.

Shanghai Maritime court had accepted jurisdiction and question now was what would the approach of Hong Kong be – will it consider Shanghai as an appropriate forum for deciding on issues of liability and quantum or not? What underpinned the jurisdictional dispute was that the tonnage limitation in Hong Kong is three times higher than in mainland China.

The Hong Kong court had little hesitation in holding that proper justice could not be obtained in Shanghai due to significant difference in tonnage limitation, and accepted jurisdiction. In doing so it relied on English court's test laid down in The Spiliada [1987] whereby defendant has to show that the other forum, Shanghai in this case, is more appropriate. Burden was on owner of CF Crystal and they failed to discharge it.

There will therefore be parallel proceedings in this case – one in Shanghai and other in Hong Kong, and only time will tell how this pans out.

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