It is not uncommon we see small to medium size cargo claims coming before the Hong Kong High Court, notwithstanding our District Court seizes jurisdiction on claims up to HKD1 million.

The argument has always been that, such was the purpose of the Admiralty Court (a division of the High Court), to handle complex shipping cases regardless of value. Recently in Morpol SA v Blue Anchor Line [2017] 4 HKC 165, Lam J ruled that a cargo claim worth HKD629,000 brought before the Admiralty Court, even involving application of the Hague Visby Rules, is not "complex or important" enough to justify a refusal to transfer the case to the District Court. 

This could mean a small victory for the defence, because of the lower recoverable hourly rates for a solicitor: under the current regime (last revised in 1997) it is a maximum HKD4,000 for High Court cases for a 10+ year qualified solicitor, compared to HKD2,600 for handling the matter at District Court. Similarly, for a 2-4 year qualified solicitor, the cap is HKD2,500 for High Court and HKD1,650 for District Court. The courts may award higher rate but they would generally adhere to the tariff. The reduced rates will also apply to a successful defendant trying to recover his costs. Still, run of the mills cargo claims can no longer be expected to come before the Admiralty Court as a matter of preference or convenience. 


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