Shipping Law

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The Future? The Hamburg Rules and the Rotterdam Rules

The Future? The Hamburg Rules and the Rotterdam Rules

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The Hague and Hague-Visby Rules embody a compromise between the interests of shipowners and those of cargo owners. By and large, this compromise has succeeded in imposing a clear and uniform regime for dealing with cargo claims arising out of sea carriage. However, changing transport patterns have meant that the Rules are now starting to show their age. For example, the emergence of the sea waybill after the 1968 Visby amendments to the Hague Rules means that this document falls outside both the Hague and Hague-Visby Rules, which are focused exclusively on the bill of lading. Neither version of the Rules can deal with multimodal carriage. Indeed, the ‘tackle to tackle’ focus of the Rules means that they do not cover the whole of the sea carrier’s period of responsibility under ‘port to port’ carriage. Furthermore, cargo interests have, for a long time, felt that the balance achieved in the Rules unduly favours sea carriers. In particular, they have criticised the burden of proof adopted by the Rules, as well as the fact that a carrier can escape liability under Art IV(2)(a) and (b) in circumstances in which cargo has been lost or damaged due to the negligence of its servants or agents. In this chapter, we shall examine two alternative regimes that have been, or are in the process of being, drafted to meet these criticisms. The first is the Hamburg Rules. The second is the Rotterdam Rules, an UNCITRAL convention that has been open for signing since September 2009.

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