Rotterdam Rules: A Practical Annotation


Scope of Application

Article 5. General scope of application

    1. Subject to article 6, this Convention applies to contracts of carriage in which the place of receipt and the place of delivery are in different States, and the port of loading of a sea carriage and the port of discharge of the same sea carriage are in different States, if, according to the contract of carriage, any one of the following places is located in a Contracting State:
  • (a) The place of receipt;
  • (b) The port of loading;
  • (c) The place of delivery; or
  • (d) The port of discharge.
    2. This Convention applies without regard to the nationality of the vessel, the carrier, the performing parties, the shipper, the consignee, or any other interested parties.


[5-01] The Rotterdam Rules may operate as a maritime multimodal convention. The Rotterdam Rules apply only to contracts of carriage. In the definition of “contracts of carriage”,1 it is stated inter alia that “the contract shall provide for carriage by sea and may provide for carriage by other modes of transport in addition to the sea carriage”. The reference to carriage by “sea” would appear to exclude by implication carriage by “water”. Carriage by sea is mandatory for the Rotterdam Rules to apply. Carriage by an inland waterway, for example, is not a substitute for carriage by sea, although carriage by inland waterway before or after sea carriage does not exclude the application of the Rules. Given that a sea leg in the carriage is essential, the Rotterdam Rules have been accurately, albeit awkwardly, styled as providing for the carriage of goods “wholly or partly by sea”. This is in recognition of the fact that nowadays the carriage of goods by sea—especially in the liner trade of containerised cargo—often represents only a small part of the international transportation of goods from warehouse to warehouse or from door to door. Had the phrase “or partly” been omitted from the title of the Convention, then the Rotterdam Rules would of course have been limited, at least in terms of the title of the Convention, to contracts involving sea carriage exclusively. The Rotterdam Rules can be described as operating as a “maritime multimodal convention”, a “wet multimodal convention”, “maritime plus multimodal convention”, or some such convention; but not as a fully-fledged multimodal convention. And, provided there is carriage by sea, it appears to make no difference whether the other modes of transport are prior to, or after, the sea carriage.

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