Diplomatic Compromise

The basis of liability sweeps aside the catalogue of exceptions in Hague-Visby and in its place requires the carrier to prove that it took all measures to prevent loss or damage to the goods. In practice most of the exceptions in Hague-Visby are beyond the control of the carrier so that this Rule is not so harsh as it might seem except of course that the Hamburg Rules introduce liability for delay.  The definition of “delay” appears to provide a very fertile area for argument. The financial limits of liability are higher than Hague-Visby, 835 units of account per package or 2.3 units of account per kilo.  With two and a half times the freight in the case of delay. Neither animals or cargo carried on deck are excluded from the Rules although the carrier is not liable for “special risks” in the case of animals. The other major shift from Hague-Visby is that the time-bar under Hamburg Rules is two years rather than one. There is, of course widespread objection to the Hamburg Rules by the maritime states particularly as so much contained in Hague-Visby has been tested in the courts.  The fear is that so much of the wording in the Hamburg Rules is indicative of diplomatic compromise rather than legal consideration, which suggests some lengthy litigation is highly probably at some stage. Nevertheless, there is a general feeling even in the developed world that Hague-Visby Rules need further amendment to bring them into line with contemporary conditions and thinking.  Whilst barely five percent of world trade is represented under Hamburg Rules there are those who predict that if Hague-Visby is not subjected to review in the near future, several more countries will opt for Hamburg Rules.