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On 23 September 2020, Maritime Traffic Safety Law of the People’s Republic of China (the “Draft Amendment”) was approved by the Standing Committee of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. The  Draft Amendment will be submitted to the National People’s Congress for review and enactment.


The Maritime Traffic Safety Law of the People’s Republic of China (MTSL) was enacted on 2 September 1983 and came into effect on 1 January 1984. The MTSL is the primary law regulating maritime traffic safety in Chinese waters.

In 2016, minor amendments to Article 12, concerning domestic transportation vessels, were made to the MTSL. In 2017, the legal office of the State Council decided that, as a result of the growth in maritime traffic, new issues were arising with regard to maritime traffic safety and the protection of the marine environment, and the MTSL need to be fully amended. The draft prepared by the Ministry of Transport was listed in the 2018 schedule of future legislation. On 23 September 2020, the  Draft Amendment was approved by the State Council.

The Draft Amendment makes comprehensive and systematic changes to the MTSL, with 134 articles compared with the MTSL’s 53 articles. There are new requirements, including the requirement for shipowners to manage safety and prevent pollution, and requirements relating to vessel security and the reporting of certain types of foreign vessels. In addition, amendments have been made to existing requirements, such as those relating to the management of crew and transportation safety.

Key changes in the Draft Amendment

The scope of application of the law is extended

Under Article 2, the new law will apply to navigation, berthing, and any work or other activities carried out not only in the PRC’s coastal waters (coastal waters mean the waters between the territorial sea base-line and the coastline) and territorial sea, but also the PRC’s contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, as well as any other waters subject to the jurisdiction of the PRC.

The scope of facilities subject to inspection is extended

Under Article 7, the requirement to hold valid inspection certificates issued by inspection agencies recognised by the maritime authorities is extended to cover not only vessels and any onboard equipment, but also offshore installations, containers and other equipment, facilities and materials that, in the opinion of the authorities, have a bearing on maritime traffic safety.

Under Article 104 and Article 105, failure to provide valid inspection certificates for a vessel or offshore installation may result in the owners of the vessel and offshore installation, as well as the vessel’s captain and other responsible crew, being subject to fines, and the certificates of competency held by the captain and other responsible crew may be suspended or withdrawn.