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  • Interview with Mr Chen Xiangyong, Director and Managing Partner at Wang Jing & Co, finalist of 2020 ALB China Law Awards Shipping Law Firm of the Year

  • DATE:2020-6-18

  • Conquering challenges with professionalism and focus

    Interview with Mr Chen Xiangyong, Director and Managing Partner at Wang Jing & Co, finalist of 2020 ALB China Law Awards Shipping Law Firm of the Year




    Established in the 1990s, Wang Jing & Co. has accumulated over 25 years’ experience in its core business area: maritime, and has built up the largest and international level maritime legal service team recognized by domestic and foreign counterparts. The team is made up of lawyers with years of experience in shipping logistics enterprises, maritime practice, maritime court adjudication, investigation and handling of maritime competent authority, or overseas litigation/arbitration agency. Over the years, Wang Jing & Co. has successfully handled a large number of foreign-related litigation and arbitration business, involving bills of lading, leases, logistics, insurance, maritime fraud, ship construction, marine engineering, shipping finance, ship collision, marine pollution, etc. This year, Wang Jing & Co. was once again shortlisted for the 2020 ALB China Law Awards Shipping Law Firm of the Year. In this interview, Mr Chen Xiangyong, the Director and Managing Partner of Wang Jing & Co. shared with ALB about his observation on the industry, their classic case, successful experience and outlook to the future.


    ALB:Congratulations on your shortlisting for the award of Shipping Law Firm of the Year! Would you please share with us your advantages and experience in the area?

    Chen: We are honored to be named a finalist for the Shipping Law Firm of the Year by the Asian Legal Business.! Since our establishment, Wang Jing & Co. has been focusing in foreign maritime affairs. Wang Jing & Co. mainly focuses on the maritime field since its establishment, and our team has been cultivating the field for years, winning the trust and loyalty of many clients. Domestic and foreign shipping companies as well as their insurers and shipping-related customers are our main target audiences, and we provide them with services such as shipping finance and offshore engineering. Our strengths are primarily in team composition and management style. Thanks to our strong team composed of outstanding maritime lawyers and partners, as well as very experienced ship captains and marine consultants, we're able to provide the most professional and experienced services. With Guangzhou as the headquarters, we have set up branches in Shanghai, Tianjin, Qingdao, Xiamen, Shenzhen and Beijing since 2002, and implemented integrated management of corporate system. Whether geographically or professionally, we are able to maximize the interests of our clients as our primary goal, and quickly mobilize the most professional and efficient lawyers to respond to their needs. In recent years, we comply with the national policy and actively safeguard the domestic customers to engage in "Belt And Road" business, handling a number of maritime disputes and domestic and international arbitration cases for Marine engineering enterprises under The China Communications Corporation, shipbuilding enterprises under the China Shipbuilding Industry Group, top  three oil companies, and the most professional maritime rescue and salvage organizations, including the Peng Lai platform oil spill in Bohai Bay. Over the years, in the process of providing legal services for these top enterprises in the industry, we have been able to hone our professional ability, accumulated rich experience and high-quality customer resources.

    ALB:What are the industry trends or changes in recent years? How do they affect the legal profession? How do you respond to them?

    Chen:
    The global shipping industry has been in downturn since 2008, this year's pandemic and the international environment have made the situation even worse for maritime and international logistics business – the international trade volume decreases and countries take measures to control the spread of the pandemic – these all lead to tremendous impact on shipping. Clients tighten their budgets for legal services because of the downturn, bringing challenges to law firms in terms of incomes and team management. And this year, Mr. Wang Jing, the founding partner of the firm formally retired, while another partner decided to move to another firm. We need to respond quickly to adjust to these internal and external changes.

    Mr Wang Jun and I were selected by all partners to be the new executive managing partner and managing partner in last September. We began our tenure with unprecedented challenges for a law firm. First of all, we do our best to stabilize the team of lawyers, who are the key to the development of law firms. After communication with everyone, most of the partners and lawyers chose to stay, especially that none of the partners and lawyers in each branch office left, which greatly encouraged us. Secondly, we optimize the law firm management and profit distribution rules, reaffirm the "professionalism, efficiency, sharing and inheriting" values, and put forward the vision of maintaining the international top level of traditional sea-related business and domestic top level in extending areas. We believe that when the external environment changes, we should maintain a professional and dedicated attitude, and should not give up the resources and advantages we have accumulated over the years because of the decline of the shipping market. Instead, we should work with our clients to provide them with more high-quality and efficient legal services. With our reputation and brand established in the market for many years, we have been able to maintain and even improve our business volume even when the epidemic has not completely subsided and normal exhibition industry cannot be carried out. Even in the face of market downturns and internal challenges, we are able to maintain a strong and leading position in the shipping legal services industry.

    What’s more exciting, we are welcoming new members onboard. In 2019, Ms. Zhang Jing and Mr. Zhang Changtao joined our Guangzhou office and Shanghai office respectively, and are promoted to partners this year after working as consultants for one year per our rules. Ms. Zhang Jing has a wealth of experience in the maritime field, and handled many high-profile cases, including the well-known case of dispute over "Archangelos Gabriel" maritime salvage contract. She also serves as a mediator of the Mediation Center of Guangzhou Maritime Court, and an off-campus tutor of Guangzhou Maritime Institute. Ms. Zhang is a great asset to our firm in terms of the shipping legal services. Mr. Zhang Changtao is a senior lawyer with over ten years of practicing experience in the maritime industry. He is a highly-experienced formidable litigator proficient in dealing with shipping, insurance, international trade and business matters, and has also handled many corporate and labor dispute cases. He helps the firm improve the talent structure and diversify the lines of business.

    We also invest in talent cultivation, training and promoting lawyers with outstanding performance. Ms. Qiao Jing has been working at our Shanghai office since 2007. She has profound legal knowledge and solid skills, and rich experience in dispute resolution. Her practice areas include insurance, corporation and international trade. She has extensive experiences in representing clients before the court, and some of the cases were tried at the Supreme People's Court and a number of higher people's courts of China. She also successfully handled many domestic and international arbitration cases. Ms. Qiao is promoted to a partner this year. We'll invest more in talent cultivation to help our lawyers with career development and meanwhile enhance the strength of the firm.

    "Never compromising with service quality and always sticking to our standards" is our principle, and the foundation of the firm. Because of that, we have built strong rapport with our clients, and maintained good business and continuous development even in difficult situations.

    ALB:What are your plans for the future development?

    Chen:
    Before the Coronavirus outbreak, we started to talk with some foreign firms about the plans for cooperation and setting up joint venture. Some of them find the plans interesting because of our vast experiences in maritime and shipping fields, and our operation network in the coastal areas of China. They hope to draw on the strength of our brand and teams to enter and explore the markets in the Greater China region. We'll soon resume those plans as the pandemic slows down. But we believe that there are still opportunities even the market is in a downturn. In the next year or two, we plan to focus on internal adjustments, training and cultivating our teams and making better knowledge management, to help the firm and our lawyers grow together and prepare ourselves for the future. I hope that, in post-pandemic time and when the global environment improves, our efforts will take us to a higher level, expand our presence in the maritime and shipping related business areas through strong collaborations and provide wider paths for our partners and lawyers.


    [CASE SHARING]

    In late 2018, the Marshall Islands-registered oil tanker EL ZORRO was struck by the Singapore-registered oil tanker ELLINGTON in Jiaxing sea area of Zhejiang Province in China. The ship hull of MT EL Zorro was ruptured and several hundred tons of base cargo oil carried on board spilled into sea. Owners of ELLINGTON and Owners of EL Zorro subsequently instituted lawsuits to claim for collision damage against each other before the Ningbo Maritime Court. Owners of EL Zorro further relied on the International Convention on Civil Liability for Pollution Damage to apply for setting up a CLC limitation fund. In addition to the inter-ship collision damage claims, the collision also resulted in various huge claims including claim for damage to onboard cargo, pollution prevention and cleanup costs claim raised by local SPROs in RMB amount of dozens of million, claims totaling nearly RMB200 million by the local marine and fishery administrative authorities for loss of fishery resources and for damage to local marine ecology. We were instructed by Owners of EL Zorro and their P&I Club to act on their behalf in dealing with all the aforesaid claims by litigation.

    With over one year’s preparation, the Ningbo Maritime Court convened an online hearing in March 2020 to first consider and adjudicate the collision liability apportionment between the two vessels and subsequently had trials on the cargo damage claim and the pollution damage claims.  According to the official report by the Ningbo Maritime Court, this has been the very first case to deal with persistent oil pollution damage claims by going through the CLC limitation proceedings in the history of China’s judicial practice since China has acceded to the International Convention on Civil Liability for Pollution Damage.  Moreover, as the case involves two foreign vessels, it will be significant reference to future trial on similar cases and contribute to China’s establishment of a maritime judicial trial center.

     

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