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16 September 2009
The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea, also known as the Rotterdam Rules, is intended to replace the Hague, Hague-Visby and Hamburg Rules with a uniform set of rules to govern the transport of goods by sea. The Norwegian Ministry of Justice issued a consultation paper on February 24 2009 requesting views on whether Norway should sign the Rotterdam Rules at the signature ceremony in Rotterdam on September 23 2009.
Signing the rules will not oblige Norway to comply with them, since a subsequent ratification will be required. However, a signature will have a symbolic effect, showing that the government supports the adoption of the convention.
Norway has adopted the Hague-Visby Rules and Chapter 13 of the Maritime Code reflects these rules. In addition, Norway has signed, but not ratified, the Hamburg Rules and Chapter 13 complies with these rules to the extent that it does not violate the Hague-Visby Rules. Ratification of the Hamburg Rules was not achieved due to lack of Nordic unity on the issue.
Whether Norway ratifies the Rotterdam Rules will likely depend on the joint view of the Nordic countries. In addition to Norway, the other Nordic countries (except Iceland) were active during the negotiation of the Rotterdam Rules, which indicates that Norway will sign.
As a consequence of the ratification and subsequent entry into force of the Rotterdam Rules, provisions in the code on carriage of cargo will need to be amended. The main elements of the code, such as the provisions on carrier's liability for cargo damage, are reflected in the Rotterdam Rules. However, the present catalogue of defences will be amended by the removal of the error in navigation defence and modification of the fire defence.
Moreover, the carrier will be unable to rely on the defences where the loss, damage or delay is caused by unseaworthiness, irrespective of whether it applied before or after the start of the voyage. The existing one-year time limit to claim for cargo damage will be extended to two years under the Rotterdam Rules.
Adjustments to package and weight limitations are also expected. The code limits the carrier's liability to 667 special drawing rights (SDR) for each package or other unit of goods, or 2 SDR for each kilogram of gross weight of goods lost, damaged or delayed. The Rotterdam Rules provide for 875 SDR per package or 3 SDR per kilogram, as well as two and a half times the freight payable on the goods in respect of economic loss due to delay. The total compensation for such loss and the carrier's general liability will in any event be limited to the package or weight limits.
The regulation of shippers' obligations and liability may also be amended, as the Rotterdam Rules provide more detailed regulation of shippers' obligations.
For further information on this topic please contact Gaute Gjelsten, Morten Lund Mathisen or Kjetil Jansen at Wikborg Rein by telephone (+47 22 82 75 00), fax (+47 22 82 75 01) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org).
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