Rotterdam Rules

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Rotterdam Rules
United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea
Signatories (red) and Ratifications (green)
Drafted 11 December 2008
Signed 23 September 2009
Location Rotterdam and New York
Effective not in force
Condition Ratification by 20 states
Signatories 25
Ratifiers 3 (Republic of the Congo, Spain, and Togo)
Depositary UN Secretary-General
Languages Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish
Not to be confused with the Rotterdam convention.

The "Rotterdam Rules" (formally, the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea) is a treaty proposing new international rules to revise the legal framework for maritime affreightment and carriage of goods by sea. The Rules primarily address the legal relationship between carriers and cargo-owners. As of October 2015, the Rules are not yet in force as they have been ratified by only three states.

The aim of the convention is to extend and modernize existing international rules and achieve uniformity of International trade law in the field of maritime carriage, updating and/or replacing many provisions in the Hague Rules, Hague-Visby Rules and Hamburg Rules.[1][2] The convention establishes a modern, comprehensive, uniform legal regime governing the rights and obligations of shippers, carriers and consignees under a contract for door-to-door shipments that involve international sea transport.[1]


The Hague Rules of 1924 were updated in 1968 to become the Hague-Visby Rules, but the changes were modest. The modified convention still covered only "tackle to tackle" carriage contracts, with no provision for multimodal transport. The industry-changing phenomenon of containerization was barely acknowledged.[3][4] The 1978 Hamburg Rules were introduced to provide a framework that was both more modern, and less biased in favour of ship-operators. Although the Hamburg Rules were readily adopted by developing countries, the new convention was shunned by richer countries who stuck with Hague and Hague-Visby.[5] It had been expected that a Hague/Hamburg compromise might arise, but instead the vast (96 articles) Rotterdam Rules appeared.

The final draft of the Rotterdam Rules, which was assembled by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, was adopted by the United Nations on 11 December 2008, and a signing ceremony took place in Rotterdam on 23 September 2009.[2][6] Signatories included the United States, France, Greece, Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands; in all, signatures were obtained from countries said to make up 25 percent of world trade by volume.[7] Signatures were allowed after the ceremony at the UN Headquarters in New York City, United States.[6]

The World Shipping Council is a prominent supporter of the Rotterdam Rules. In 2010, the American Bar Association House of Delegates approved a resolution supporting U.S. ratification of the Rotterdam Rules.[8][9]

Main provisions[edit]

The following are critical provisions and law changes found in the Rotterdam Rules.

  • The Rules apply only if the carriage includes a a sea leg; so other multimodal carriage contracts which have no sea leg are outside of the scope of the Rules.
  • It extends the period of time that carriers are responsible for goods to cover the time between the point where the goods are received to the point where the goods are delivered.[7]
  • It allows for more e-commerce and approves more forms of electronic documentation.[7]
  • It increases the limit liability of carriers to 875 units of account per shipping unit or three units of account per kilogram of gross weight.[7]
  • It eliminates the "nautical fault defence" which had protected carriers and crew from liability for negligent ship management and navigation.[7]
  • It extends the time that legal claims can be filed to two years following the day the goods were delivered or should have been delivered.[7]
  • It allows parties to so-called "Volume Contracts" to opt-out of some liability rules set in the convention.[7]
  • It obliges carriers to keep ships seaworthy and properly crewed throughout the voyage.[7] The standard of care is not "strict", but "due diligence" (as with the Hague Rules).

Entry into force and ratifications[edit]

The Rotterdam Rules will enter into effect a year after 20 countries have ratified that treaty.[10] As of 9 August 2011, there are 24 signatories to the treaty.[10] The most recent country to sign the treaty was Sweden, which signed on 20 July 2011.[10] Spain was the first country to ratify the convention in January 2011.[11] An overview of signatures and ratifications is shown below:

Upon entry into force of the convention for a country, it should denounce the conventions governing the Hague-Visby Rules as well as the Hamburg Rules as the convention does not come into effect without such denouncements.

Country Signature Ratification
 Armenia 29 September 2009
 Cameroon 29 September 2009
 Congo 23 September 2009 28 January 2014
 Democratic Republic of the Congo 23 September 2010
 Denmark 23 September 2009
 France 23 September 2009
 Gabon 23 September 2009
 Ghana 23 September 2009
 Greece 23 September 2009
 Guinea 23 September 2009
 Guinea-Bissau 24 September 2013
 Luxembourg 31 August 2010
 Madagascar 25 September 2009
 Mali 26 October 2009
 Netherlands 23 September 2009
 Niger 22 October 2009
 Nigeria 23 September 2009
 Norway 23 September 2009
 Poland 23 September 2009
 Senegal 23 September 2009
 Spain 23 September 2009 19 January 2011
 Sweden 20 July 2011
  Switzerland 23 September 2009
 Togo 23 September 2009 17 July 2012
 United States 23 September 2009

See also[edit]


External links[edit]