Shippers schooled on new contract of carriage rule

The Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA) has organised a one-day consultative workshop for stakeholders in the maritime sector toward the country’s adoption of the Rotterdam Rules.

The Rotterdam Rules are the new United Nations convention on contracts for international carriage of goods fully or partially by sea, which has come to replace existing contract of carriage rules such as The Hague Rules, Hague-Visby Rules, and the Hamburg Rules which have existed for well over half a century.

The workshop offered a platform for officials of the GSA, shippers, and various government agencies who provide services in the clearance of goods and operate along the logistics-chain of the transport industry in international trade to make inputs for the formulation of new rules for the country.

The Rotterdam Rules have to be ratified by 20 countries before they come into force but they are currently ratified by three countries: Spain, Congo and Togo. It was drafted in 2008 and signed by 25 countries in 2009.

Chief Executive Officer of the GSA, Dr. Kofi Mbiah, briefed journalists on benefits of the Rotterdam Rules: “The existing rules do not provide for compensation to the shipper in the event that his consignments are delayed by the carrier; also, the carrier can limit its liabilities when there are damages to goods on board the vessel, and therefore the Rotterdam Rules have come to change that.

“Most of the existing rules were developed in the early twenties, but a lot has happened over time; they do not make provisions for port-to-port and door-to-door but the Rotterdam Rules now apply port-to-port and door-to-door services and even beyond.

“Another important aspect of these rules is the possibility of the country assuming jurisdiction over all legal issues related to the contract of carriage once the goods land in the country.”

Head of Shipper Services at the GSA, Naa Densua Aryeetey, said implementation of the various regimes on the conduct and carriage of international trade creates some segmentation and subsequently affects certainty of the law in the field of maritime transportation.

She said adoption of the Rotterdam Rules will ensure that shippers and carriers will have a binding and balanced universal regime to support the operations of carriage involving various modes of transport.

“The recognition of this problem necessitated global calls for vigorous research for a new legal order that would create certainty, uniformity, harmonisation and modernity as well as reduce cost in international business transactions involving the carriage of goods by sea.

The introduction of the Rotterdam Rules, according to her, is a timely response from the UN Commission on International Trade Law that will create a platform for inter-governmental rules which will govern contracts pertaining to carriage of goods.