Conferences

Another product of governments and the trade jointly seeking uniformity goes back to 1864 when the International Maritime Committee began discussions on a set of rules to regulate the manner in which General Average is settled.  Eventually the first version of the York Antwerp Rules was established; these have been up-dated at fairly frequent intervals, the current version is the York Antwerp Rules 1994. Whilst these are not by any means pure examples of self-regulation by the shipping industry, it does show the manner in which governments and the trade can collaborate. The Hamburg Rules – the rival to the Hague-Visby Rules – present a somewhat different picture, one more of political pressure than a simple desire for uniformity.  In the case of the Hamburg Rules the discussions took place in the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law and some of the wording is arguably ambiguous due to the need to find a compromise among several opposing political views. The effect of the political pressures with which the United Nations has to cope is perhaps best exemplified in the case of the ill-fated “United Nations Convention on a Code of Conduct for Liner Conferences” which was an attempt in 1971 to ensure that the national lines of less developed countries carried a fair share of its imports and exports.  Sadly, by the time it was accepted as an international convention, the trade  had moved on, containerisation was dominant and the Liner Conferences had lost much of their influence and so the Code of Practice became irrelevant. More recently UNCTAD have produced their Multimodal Convention 1980 which, as its name implies, seeks to regularise the movement of goods on a door-to-door contract and follows the Hamburg Rules in many respects. At the time of compiling this lesson the convention has not received sufficient ratifications to bring it into operation.