[Case Brief] The ship ¡°Ding Heng 9" anchored somewhere to the east of Yuanshan Island and to the north of Fodu Channel. After the anchorage, the relevant personnel were arranged to go on duty on navigation bridge. The visibility distance on the sea surface at that time was less than 1 nautical mile, and the second mate of the ship did not sound the foghorn, get the engine ready and put additional observers in place as required, nor did he notify the captain to come to the navigation bridge. At 10:00 am, April 19, 2010, the ship ¡°Zhe Xiang 988" made its way to the waters near Xi Mo Pan at the north of Niu Bi Shan Channel where the visibility distance on the sea surface was about 1 nautical mile. No one on the ship sound the foghorn and get the engine ready as required, nor additional observers were put in place or navigation lights were turned on. When the ship "Ding Heng 9" was identified on the radar screen, the distance between the two ships was approximately 2.0 nautical miles, but the "Zhe Xiang 988" failed to take any measures for avoidance of collision until the port side of its hull collided with the center-left part of the bow of "Ding Heng 9". Thereafter, the ship "Zhe Xiang 988" continued to move forward due to the effect of inertia, and collided with the bow of the ship "Zhou Hai You 9". At 12:01, the ship "Zhou Hai You 9" discovered that "Zhe Xiang 988" was driven transversely from the direction of its bow, less than 0.3 nautical miles away from it. A collision cannot be avoided after the "hard aport" is ordered. The report on investigation of a maritime traffic accident issued by the maritime administrative authority determined that the ship "Zhe Xiang 988" shall assume primary responsibilities for its collision with the anchored ship "Ding Heng 9" and the latter shall assume secondary responsibilities; and the ship "Zhe Xiang 988" and the ship "Zhou Hai You 9" shall assume equal responsibilities for the collision between them. After hearing the case, the Court held that the ship "Zhe Xiang 988" collided with "Zhou Hai You 9" about two minutes after its collision with the ship "Ding Heng 9", resulting in the sinking of the ship "Zhe Xiang 988". In the event that crew members were in panic and intervals between collisions were short, the majority of crew members generally cannot avoid the accident of collisions between ships at their normal levels and seamanship, therefore, the collisions involving the three ships had a causal link and constituted chain collisions, it was held that "Zhe Xiang 988", "Zhou Hai You 9" and "Ding Heng 9" shall respectively assume 45%, 45% and 10% responsibilities in this vessel collision accident. After the judgment of the first instance was made, Zhoushan Dingheng Shipyard Co., Ltd. filed an appeal against the judgment. The court of second instance dismissed the appeal in accordance with the law and affirmed the original judgment.
[Typical Significance] When collisions involving multiple vessels occur, the key points of the standards for determination of whether the collisions constitute one collision accident or several collision accidents independent from each other are: whether there is chronological continuity and whether there is causal link between two collisions. If the first collision has not resulted in a subsequent urgent situation, or although it has resulted in a subsequent urgent situation, the second collision can be avoided by virtue of good seamanship and prudent treatment, the colliding vessel collides with another vessel once again or with a pier or other facilities, the first collision and the second one shall be deemed as two collisions independent from each other. As far as the latter case is concerned, given the fact that there was no causal link between the two collisions, and the second collision occurred through no fault or involvement of the other party, the causal link between the first collision and the second one did not exist, and therefore the other party is not required to assume the liability for damage. It is true that there was chronological continuity when the two collisions occurred, so that it was impossible for crew members on the ships to avoid the second collision by virtue of the crew members' normal seamanship as the two collisions occurred at short intervals and the crew members were in panic. Accordingly, the Court ruled that there was a casual link among the three collisions which constituted chain collisions.