People Innovation Excellence

THE HISTORY OF THE ROTTERDAM RULES

By NIRMALA (April 2017)

Introduction

The current legal regime governing the international carriage of goods by sea lacks uniformity and fails to adequately take into account modern transport practices, including containerization, door-to-door transport contracts and the use of electronic transport documents (Resolution adopted by the General Assembly paragraph 2). The aforementioned current legal regime referred to, firstly, the International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law Relating to Bills of Lading (known as Hague Rules), which was signed in Brussels on 25 Aug 1924, secondly, its protocol 1968 Hague-Visby Protocol and thirdly, the 1978 Hamburg Rules, which came into force on 1 November 2009.

The journey towards Rotterdam Rules

In 2001, United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) created a working group, called “Working Group on Transport Law”, which was composed of all State members of UNCITRAL, and devoted thirteen sessions to the preparation of the Draft Convention (initially called Draft Instrument) have taken place and four subsequent drafts have been prepared (F. Berlingieri in Meltem Deniz Guner-Ozbek eds., The United Nations Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea, 2011). The working group had a task to prepare, in close cooperation with interested international organizations, a legislative instrument on issues relating to the international carriage of goods, such as the scope of application, the period of responsibility of the carrier, obligations of the carrier, liability of the carrier, obligations of the shipper and transport documents (UNCITRAL Yearbook Volume XXXIX:2008).

During the twelfth session of Working Group held in Vienna on 6-17 October 2003, it was decided that the draft instrument would be called “Convention on the carriage of goods wholly or partly by sea (F. Berlingieri 2011).

In the course of the deliberation of the instrument, Indonesia has participated as an Observer to its 8 sessions out of its total 21 sessions (UNCITRAL Yearbook Volume XXXIX:2008). There were 121 countries who have participated in the sessions as Member States, Other States as well as Observers (http://www.uncitral.org/uncitral/about/origin_history.html).

The Convention was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations at its 67th plenary meeting on 11 December 2008 [F. Berlingieri p. 50] as the “Convention of Contracts for the International Carrying of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea”. The Convention was opened for signing on in Rotterdam. During its signing ceremony for the Convention, it was recommended the new Convention to be known as the “Rotterdam Rules” (rotterdamrules.com).

Therefore, the adoption of uniform rules to govern international contracts of carriage wholly or partly by sea will promote legal certainty, improve the efficiency of international carriage of goods and facilitate new access opportunities for previously remote parties and markets, thus playing a fundamental role in promoting trade and economic development, both domestically and internationally (Preamble of Rotterdam Rules paragraph 7).

The Convention extends and modernizes the existing international rules relating to contract of maritime carriage of goods. The aim is that the Convention will replace The Hague Rules, The Hague-Visby Rules and the Hamburg Rules and that it will achieve uniformity of law in the field of maritime carriage (Rotterdam rules.com).

The convention will come into force after 20 countries ratified the Convention. To be specific, it will come into force one year after ratification by the 20th United Nations Member state. Unfortunately, so far, only Spain, Togo and Congo have ratified the Rotterdam Rules. Although there are reports, to the widespread support for the Convention, the expectation is that it may be some time before the Rotterdam Rules enter into force. (***)

Keyword: Rotterdam Rules, Maritime Convention, Contract of International Carriage of Goods by Sea.



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