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Transportation by sea which supersedes the Hague Rules 1924, Hauge Visby Rules 1928 and the amburg Rules 1978


The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2008, and signed in Rotterdam in September 2009. This UN convention, called 'the Rotterdam Rules', describes the rights and obligations of parties involved in the carriage of goods by sea. The convention provides more clarity about who is responsible for what, when and where in maritime transport and how far these responsibilities extend. 

The Rotterdam Rules replace the Hague Rules (1924), the Hague-Visby Rules (1968) and the Hamburg Rules (1978), as these conventions have become outdated. Developments such as the carriage of goods in containers and electronic data transfer did not feature in those conventions. As a result, gaps have occurred in law and every judge has to reinvent the law individually. National or regional law making is not efficient, as 90% of shipping takes place internationally. With the new convention, the rules are internationally in line again. 

Transport over land and sea 

The Rotterdam Rules apply to contracts for the transport of goods over sea as well as their prior or subsequent transport over land. In this way, multimodal transport can be carried out under a single "door to door" contract with just one statutory regime applying to it. 

Limits of Liability 

The limits of liabilty have been increased. Compared to the Hague-Visby rules, the limits per kilogram have been increased from 2 up to 3 SDR, while the limit per package has been increased up to 875 SDR. 

Clarification concerning liability 

What do the Rotterdam Rules change? In the case of a stranded ship, a stolen container or damage to a shipment, the Rotterdam Rules establish more clearly who is responsible and accountable for what. Unlike the old conventions, other parties in the chain, such as stevedores, may now be jointly liable with the carrier. The shipper's obligations are also more clearly defined, such as its obligation to have the goods ready for transport in a timely manner. Goods loaded in containers and trailers must be stowed in such a way that they are able to withstand the sea voyage. In addition, in case of damages the claims procedure is made easier. The time bar has been extended from one to two years for countries which are parties to the Hague and Hague-Visby Rules, which have the greatest number of contracting states. Furthermore, the name and address of the carrier must be stated on the transport document. 


The Rotterdam Rules establish the legal infrastructure for the development of e-commerce in maritime transport. Not only does the introduction of electronic transport documents becomes possible under the Rotterdam Rules, they also provide the rules on the basis whereby entirely document-free transport may take place. 

Improving the cargo flow in the ports 

When a consignee fails to collect its cargo in time, carriers and terminals have more options for storing cargo outside the port area. This may prevent port congestion.

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