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European forwarders oppose new liability rules regime

June 9 - The debate over the Rotterdam Rules, the proposed new cargo liability rules, is getting increasing vocal and Europe's freight forwarders, via trade association Clecat, has joined the fray claiming the regulations unduly benefit carriers.

Agreeing with earlier comments made by the European Shippers' Council (ESC), Clecat has labelled the new Rotterdam Rules as "unclear and uncertain", adding that the new regime, officially known as the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea (Uncitral), provided hardly any additional benefit over the current liability rules for freight forwarders.

In a strongly-worded statement, Clecat said that implementing the Rotterdam Rules is a step into an extended grey area, both in legal and judicial terms and that such uncertainties are likely to finish up adding a new liability regime side-by-side with existing ones - increasing confusion, rather than mitigating it. 

The trade association also suggested that its members are also concerned that the extreme complication of these rules may lead to a number of local or regional interpretations, which is possible according to the terms laid out in the convention and that this would certainly not lead to harmonisation or simplification.

Clecat also claims that the Rotterdam Rules would benefit carriers by allowing them to limit liability for loss and damage of cargo, and for delay to shipments, but that these benefits would not be available for freight forwarders or shippers when they acted as contractual carriers by signing volume contracts. 

Several organisations have shown their support for the new Rotterdam Rules including the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the World Shipping Council, as well as the National Industrial Transportation League (NITL), all of whom have called for governments to ratify the proposed new rules.

The convention, designed to replace the Hamburg and Hague Visby regimes, adopted by the general assembly of the UN last year, will enter into force as soon as 20 countries have ratified the legislation. 

What will be the impact of the new rules on shippers, forwarders and carriers involved in the movement of project cargoes? Have you say. Contact us now and give us your thoughts? email

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