15 countries sign Rotterdam Rules
Fifteen countries, including the United States, signed the new United Nation’s Convention on the Carriage of Goods (Wholly or Partly) by Sea, the so-called Rotterdam Rules, at a ceremony in the Dutch city on Wednesday.
The signatories were Congo, Denmark, Gabon, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Senegal, Spain, Switzerland, Togo and the United States.
The ceremonial signing of the treaty, conducted at the Van Nelle Design Factory, formerly used for processing coffee, tea and tobacco, caps more than a decade of work on a new scheme to define the rights and obligations involved in the maritime carriage of goods to replace the 1924 Hague Rules, 1978 Hague-Visby Rules, and 1978 Hamburg Rules. Delegates to a working group at the U.N. Commission International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) met twice a year, beginning in 2002, to come up with the treaty that was adopted by the U.N General Assembly last December.
Signing the treaty does not mean that a country has adopted it — the individual governments in each country must approve it, and it would not take effect until one year after 20 countries adopt it, and then only in those countries.
|van der Jagt|
In the United States, if the Obama administration signs it, it would then go to the Senate for advice and consent, and if not found to be “self executing” it would require implementing legislation to be passed by both the House and Senate and signed by the president.
The ink was barely dry on the documents, and there were efforts to spin the news of Wednesday’s ceremony.
The Port of Rotterdam noted in a press release that “important seafaring nations such as the United States, Norway, Greece and the Netherlands are among the signatories. The Rotterdam Rules bring more clarity regarding who is responsible and liable for what, when, where and to what extent for transport by sea. The Rotterdam Rules will give world trade a boost, considering that 80 percent of world trade is conducted by sea. If the same law applies all over the world, this will promote international trade and make it more efficient and clearer.”
The European Shippers Council, which has opposed the rules, sent out a statement on Thursday that only 15 states signed the rules “would indicate a growing concern among governments that these rules are not the panacea that supporters of the Convention suggest.”
'I believe that one of the reasons that so few governments have signed could be that there are still so many unanswered questions,' said Nicolette van der Jagt, ESC secretary general. 'Transport Canada indicated in a press statement last week that they are not ready to sign because of concerns amongst a number of Canadian stakeholders and that they wanted more time to consult with them. This could be what other member states are thinking.'
In the United States, the National Industrial Transportation League has endorsed the Rotterdam Rules.
The World Shipping Council, which represents container carriers, has also been a strong supporter of the new cargo liability treaty.
“Should the rules one day nonetheless be ratified by the 20 states necessary before it can come into force, we will try to help and educate shippers to avoid the pitfalls this will present. We are already willing to work with others in this regard who have shippers' interests at heart,” van der Jagt said. ' Chris Dupin