Aspects of multimodal transport in the rotterdam rules

AuthorAlina Sulicu
PositionAssistant professor
Assistant professor, Phd student Alina SULICU
The United Nations Convention on Contra cts for the Interna tional Carr iage of Goods Wholly or Partly by
Sea (hereinafter The Rotterdam Rules or Convention) signed on 23 September 2009 is ta king a novel approa ch to
internationa l trade. It might be the reason why it ha s not received positive ac knowledgement from the signatories,
law experts and other interested parties. However, one might wonder whether the trade itself stayed novel-free
during the past several decades. It should not come a s a surprise tha t it ha s not. Tackle-to tackle approach is no
longer applicable to a majority of contracts concluded that provide for delivery to the consignee’s door step, as of
1970 container ships a nd container terminals dominate cargo handling in por ts and onboard the ship, electronic
communication and documentation is becoming a common feature in the current trade. Even if there a re more
developments to be na med, the aforementioned three make the regime under the Ha gue ,Hague-Visby and Ha mburg
Rules appear outdated. So is the unfamiliar approac h as envisioned by the Rotterdam Rules really such a big failure?
Key words: multimodal tra nsport, the Rotterdam Rules, shipping industry Hamburg Rules, the European Union
JEL Classification: K23
Multimodal transport, normally defined as a contract of carriage involving more than one
mode of transport, has been on the international regulatory agenda for many years. To date there
has been no success in achieving uniformity of law in its international regulation
. When the new
maritime Convention on International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly bySea (the Rotterdam
breaks with unimodal tradition and includes carriage by othermodes of transport in
addition to the sea carriage”
, it embodies a big step forward. However, it is clear that the main
area of the Convention is still maritime carriage. The multimodal partis only an `addition', a fact
that has given the Rotterdam Rules the position of a `maritime plus' convention. Nevertheless, if
the Rotterdam Rules enter into force the global transportindustry will be provided with a legal
instrument harmonising the rules on carrier liability in `wet' multimodal transport, or multimodal
transport with a sea leg. The parties to the Rotterdam Rules could be both the European Member
States as well as the European Union (EU) as such (see Rotterdam Rules Articles 88, 93). Up to
October 2010 only the following Member States have signed the Convention: Denmark, Greece,
France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain. We might see a split in the traditional
Nordic transport law cooperation: Denmark and Norway have signed; Finland, Sweden and
Iceland have not. From an international point of view it is interesting that the United States has
signed but China has not.
So far, however, no state has ratified the Convention. If a sufficient
number of states do ratify (under Article 94 of the Convention 20 ratifications are required) and
the Rotterdam Rules become applicable in any of these countries, there will certainly be an
impact on the EU.
Currently the European Commission is working towards a form of transport that is:
. . . sustainable, energy-efficient and respectful of the environment. [The] . . . aim is to disconnect
mobility from its adverse effects. This means, above all, promoting co-modality, i.e. optimally
combining various modes of transport within the same transport chain, which is the solution for
Alina SULICU „Constantin Brâncoveanu” University, Piteti,
Ralph de Wit Multimodal Transport Carrier Liability and Documentation (Lloyds of London Press 1995) p 1.
M Hoeks Multimodal Transport Law: The Law Applicable to the Multimodal Contract for the Carriage of Goods ( Kluwer The
Netherlands 2010) at 19±22.
United Nations Convention on International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea (the Rotterdam Rules)
(formally adopted by UN General Assembly December 2008, annexed to General Assembly Resolution 63/122
Rotterdam Rules art 1.1.

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