Under the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement between the Mainland and Hong Kong, Hong Kong has retained its common law system after reunification with the Mainland. Hong Kong has signed many important international maritime regulations and conventions and these regulations constitute part of Hong Kong’s maritime law. Being an associate member of the International Maritime Organization, Hong Kong is able to influence international discussions on shipping conventions. In addition, by virtue of the Basic Law, Hong Kong is able to enact its own shipping-related legislation. Hong Kong’s maritime law is globally recognised as the most advanced law with the highest standard.

Maritime law is one of Hong Kong’s highly competitive professional services in the international arena. Law firms maintain close collaboration with the marine insurance industry in settling claims for compensation and complement international legal actions by assisting in the seizure of vessels navigating in Hong Kong waters. Hong Kong’s law firms can offer legal instruments in both Chinese and English, which is a rather important service to the operation of the international freight industry. There are many local and overseas law firms specialising in maritime professions in Hong Kong. Besides, the leading shipping, trading and even insurance companies (in particular the protection and indemnity insurance companies) also engage legal advisors or claims managers. As a matter of fact, much talent in maritime law has been occupying key positions in law firms, shipping companies, insurance companies, international arbitration bodies, etc. Therefore, talented people who aspire to develop their career in the field of maritime law actually do not have to worry about their prospects.

Furthermore, an Admiralty Court has been specially set up under the High Court in Hong Kong. It is chaired by senior maritime law judges to handle actions in relation to maritime issues and maritime law. The judgments made by the Admiralty Court have been widely quoted overseas.

Entry Requirements

The maritime legal sector in Hong Kong requires talent from various professional fields, including solicitors, barristers (litigation lawyers), legal executives, corporate legal advisers, marine managers, arbitrators, and mediators. Among these professionals, maritime solicitors and litigation lawyers (barristers) are particularly important.

To become a maritime solicitor, one must first obtain a bachelor’s degree in law from a university or have equivalent qualification (such as holding a bachelor’s degree in fields other than law, and has completed the Common Professional Examination programme and passed the examination). After that, he or she should complete the 1-year Postgraduate Certificate in Laws (PCLL) or equivalent overseas courses recognised in Hong Kong. Having passed the examination, he or she should serve as a trainee solicitor in a shipping law firm to receive two years of practical training. After completing the training and admitted as a solicitor to the High Court of Hong Kong, he or she will be qualified for practice.

To become a maritime barrister, one should complete the PCLL or equivalent overseas courses recognised in Hong Kong, and then serve as a pupil barrister at a barristers’ chambers which specifically deals with cases in relation to maritime law, or undertake pupillage to receive a year of practical training with an experienced practising barrister who specialises in maritime law. During the training period, one should engage in the handling of maritime law cases as much as possible.

As maritime law firms need sea-going professionals and relevant technical expertise, some of the lawyers therein are also qualified officers on board vessels. Experienced maritime solicitors and barristers may become judges of the Admiralty Court under the Court of First Instance of the High Court in Hong Kong.