Chinese Court Seizes Japanese Vessel to Enforce WW2-Related Ruling


The Shanghai Maritime Court has seized a Japanese ship owned by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL). The vessel, Baosteel Emotion, was seized to provide payment for a judgment against MOL relating to the use (and eventual loss) of two Chinese ships by the firm during World War II. Financial Times called the seizure “an unprecedented asset confiscation for wartime compensation.”

The seizure of Baosteel Emotion is perhaps the most dramatic turn in a case that has dragged on since the 1930s. In 1936, the Chinese company Chung Wei Steamship Co. leased two ships for one year to a Japanese shipping line, Daido Kaiun. However, in 1937 the ships were commandeered by the Japanese navy, which did not pay any leasing fees to Chung Wei. Both ships eventually sank while in the service of Japan’s navy. For decades, the Chen family (the owners of Chung Wei Steamship Co.) have been unsuccessfully trying to receive payment for the ships from Daido Kaiun’s successor firm, Mitsui O.S.K.

In 2007, the Shanghai Maritime Court ruled in favor of the Chen family, and demanded 2.9 billion yen ($28 million) in compensation from MOL. The court upheld the ruling in 2010, and in 2011 China’s Supreme Court rejected a final appeal from MOL. The current seizure of the Baosteel Emotion is a direct result of that verdict. According to Xinhua, the Shanghai court says “it will dispose of the ship if MOL continues to refuse to fulfill its obligation.”

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