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The Rotterdam Rules is the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partially by Sea.  It is a convention intended to unify and modernize international rules already in existence that govern the international carriage of goods by sea.

The following are the salient provisions of the Convention in a Q & A format:

What is the scope of its application?  This Convention applies to contracts of carriage in which the place of receipt and the place of delivery are in different States and the port of loading of a sea carriage and the port of discharge of the same sea carriage are in different States if in the contract of carriage any of the following,  (a) the place of receipt or (b) the port of loading or (c) the place of delivery or (d) the port of discharge is located in a Contracting State.  It likewise applies without regard to the nationality of the vessel, the carrier, the performing parties, the shipper, the consignee, or any other interested parties.

Is the carrier liable for loss of or damage or for delay in the delivery of the goods?  Yes, if the claimant can prove that the loss, damage or delay took place during the period of the carrier’s responsibility and attributable to the fault of the carrier.

What is the period of time for suit?   The period is 2-years from the time of delivery or the time the goods should have been delivered.

Where is the venue of judicial proceedings?  Unless the contract of carriage contains an exclusive choice of venue, the plaintiff can initiate judicial proceedings in a jurisdiction of which is situated any one of the following places:  (i) the domicile of the carrier; (ii) the place of receipt agreed in the contract of carriage; (iii) the place of delivery agreed in the contract of carriage; or (iv) the port where the goods are initially loaded on a ship or the port where the goods are finally discharged from a ship.

Is the Rotterdam Rules already in effect?  No. It will enter into effect only when 20-countries ratify it.  There are 24 signatories to the treaty but only 2 countries have ratified the same.

We have various and antiquated laws and regulations governing the international carriage of goods by sea in our jurisdiction.  It is therefore imperative that we ratify the said Convention with the end view of promoting our economic development.

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