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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bills of lading...history?

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The current liability regimes governing international shipping look set to change to a new convention called the "Rotterdam Rules". The UN General assembly has adopted these and put them up for signing in Rotterdam on the 23rd of September. For these to come into force at least twenty countries must sign the convention and this looks likely to occur.

The Rotterdam Rules are intended to modernise, harmonise and replace a multitude of other liability rules governing shipping globally dating back about century or more. These include the Hamburg, Hague and Hague Visby Rules and other regional rules such as the United States and Australian COGSA, the Nordic States Maritime Code and the Maritime Code of China.

The humble bill of lading looks like being replaced with a "NTD". A Negotiable Transport Document. Controversially and unlike a bill of lading, an NTD enables a shipping line or freight forwarder to release the goods to a third party without that party having to be the holder of the NTD. A bill of lading is a document of title to the goods so without this status, there is a likelihood that NTD's may lead to a lack of security in the global banking system and with letters of credit. We'll see.

The Rotterdam Rules attempt to cover e-commerce far more comprehensively than the current rules. I see this as an imperative although some confusion will no doubt follow for a while.

The good news for shippers and consignees is that the carriers limit of liability will be increased. You'll still need comprehensive marine insurance cover but this is a step in the right direction.

More on the Rotterdam Rules....click here.

All for now,
Brad Skelton
The Shipping Bloke



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