The sustainability of the Rotterdam Rules in modern multimodal transport : the possibility of harmony for liability under multimodal carriage contracts.
Matshinga, Linda Innocent.
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With the advent of containerisation in the 1960s, there was a significant need to alter the traditional legal approach to the long-distance haulage of goods. The use of containers made it possible for goods to be transported by different modes of transport from their point of origin to their destination without there being a need for unpacking in order to sort or verify them during the process of being moved from one mode of transport to another. This led to an increase, internationally, in the use of multimodal transport contracts for long-distance haulage. In the event of loss, damage or delay to the goods involved in multimodal transport, shippers and consignees desired to deal with a single operator who would bear responsibility for the entire transport in lieu of pursuing several unimodal carriers. Multimodal transport, however, is being operated in circumstances where the current international cargo liability regime for the carriage of goods is not harmonised i.e. the law of carriage is substantially influenced by unimodal transport conventions. The current carriage regimes are out-dated and unsuitable to deal with multimodal carriage. A cargo claimant whose goods are lost, delayed or damaged during international multimodal transportation is confronted with numerous difficulties in establishing liability under a multimodal carriage contract as he may find himself dealing with a number of different liability regimes. This becomes even worse when the stage during which the damage occurred cannot be localised and therefore it is not clear which unimodal liability regime is pertinent. There have been several calls from different authors for a true multimodal convention, covering all aspects of “door-to-door” multimodal carriage to be developed. The question that arises is whether the recently formed United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea (The Rotterdam Rules) has what it takes to meet the demands of modern multimodal transport and if it does, why then are states reluctant to ratify it. This study aims at examining the scope of application of the Rotterdam Rules in multimodal transport and its implications for the liability problems associated with multimodal transport. It will however not focus on the basis of liability, limits and other matters offered by the Convention.