ENTER THE ROTTERDAM RULES
An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers
The activity of transporting goods by both land and sea for purposes of trade has been with us probably since the Stone Age. But what changes have been wrought since then, obviously, in marine technology (oar to sail, to steam, and so forth), extended trade routes and developments in methods of navigation and communications worldwide. A gradual evolution has also taken place in the regulatory environment governing shipping. Part of this evolution has been the recent emergence of "The Rotterdam Rules".
To give them their full title, The Rotterdam Rules, comprise `the Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea - The Rules cater for transport which includes both land and sea. Opened for signature in September 2009, The Rotterdam Rules represent what has been called `the most comprehensive overhaul of the law of carriage of goods by sea in more than fifty years' -- an overhaul, we would add, that is probably a bit overdue, for at least two reasons, as the authors point out.
The first is the gigantic increase in container traffic - and secondly, the now almost universal use of `electronic means of communication', particularly in the issue and transfer of bills of lading. Powers for accommodating electronic transport documents were actually provided by the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992, but these powers remain unused. It's in response to such realities that The Rotterdam Rules have been developed
As pointed out by the authors of this thorough and scholarly book, the Rotterdam Rules have not yet been fully adopted by the UK government (Labour, prior to May 2010,) or even internationally. They imply, however, The Rotterdam Rules will eventually supplant, or at least supplement the Hague-Visby Rules which have served shipping perfectly well for over 30 years, but which are now `beginning to show their age.'
This book is indeed `a practical annotation' of The Rotterdam Rules, providing a thorough and minutely detailed commentary on their highly complex 96 articles and indicating throughout the various means by which The Rotterdam Rules compare with, or depart from the Hague-Visby Rules, which still remain the instrument covering most bills of lading.
How interesting, then, that the term `bill of lading' does not appear in the definition of `contract of carriage' in the Rotterdam Rules. Vanished, obliterated, rendered extinct, the old familiar `bill of lading' has been replaced `to accommodate the wider concept of a "transport document" and/or "electronic transport record".' The Rotterdam Rules, say the authors have `moved on from the smaller world of the Hague-Visby Rules' in response, no doubt, to the necessities of global business and modern communications.
If you're a maritime lawyer, this formidable work of reference is essential reading, as it should be for anyone affected -- or potentially affected -- by the new Rules, including solicitors, barristers, claims handlers and in-house legal advisers. Part of the Maritime and Transport Library, it contains copious Tables of Cases, International Conventions, Statutes, Legislation and European Legislation.
Certainly it contains the authoritative content you need to expand your understanding of the Rotterdam Rules and advise your clients accordingly.