A day’s consultative forum to discuss Ghana’s adoption of a new United Nations convention on contract for international carriage of goods dubbed “the Rotterdam Rules” fully or partially by sea has been held in Accra.
The purpose of the Rotterdam Rules is to replace the Hague Rules, Hague Visby Rules, and the Hamburg Rules, which are international rules relating to the contract of carriage of goods by sea, that have existed for well over half a century,
The forum was organised by the Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA) and 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 in the transport industry in international trade to make inputs for the formulation of the new rules for the country.
The forum also discussed how to accede to the new convention which is expected to be of much benefit to consignees, shippers and carriers.
Mrs Naa Densua Aryeetey, Head of Shipper Services, said the implementation of the various regimes on the conduct and carriage of international trade created some segmentation and subsequently affected the certainty of the law in the field of maritime transportation.
The Rotterdam Rules, which has to be ratified by twenty countries before it comes into force, is currently ratified by three countries; Spain, Congo and Togo. It was drafted in 2008 and signed by 25 countries in 2009.
“The recognition and acknowledgement of the existence of this problem was what globally called for vigorous research for a new legal order that would create certainty, uniformity, harmonisa-tion and modernity as well as reduce cost in international business transactions involving the carriage of goods by sea,” she noted.
According to her, the UN specialised agency, the UN Commission on international trade law, responded to the clarion call for change and created a platform that allowed for inter-governmental rules that would govern the contract of maritime carriage of goods.
She said shippers and carriers would have a binding and balanced universal regime to support the operations of carriage involving various modes of transport.
Dr. Mbiah, the Chief Executive Officer, GSA, said Ghana and some other countries had ratified the Hague rules, whilst others ratified a hybrid to suit their particular circumstances.
He cited Nigeria as an example, which has ratified the Hague and Hamburg rules and is currently seeking to do away with them and take up the Rotterdam rules.
He said countries which accepted the Hamburg rules were limited which necessitated the coming into force of the Rotterdam rules, adding that shippers had also expressed a lot of concerns about the scope of the Hamburg rules because things have changed in the industry for which they felt the need for a change of the old rules.
Dr. Mbiah said Ghana had signed the Rotterdam rules but was yet a party to the rules, adding that the Rotterdam rules looks at a combination of provisions of the Hague/Visby and Hamburg and has adopted a door to door approach with period beginning with receipt of the goods and ending with delivery.
He said this rule has achieved its aim that is meant to balance the carrier and the cargo, and indicated, however, that with this achieved, arose the obligation of the carrier to look into the issue of sea worthiness as a result of the vagaries of the sea and as such sea worthiness has become a continuous obligation in the Rotterdam rules
He said Rotterdam rules also made provision for deviation but very limited, adding that, there must be the existence of applicable laws.
Dr. Mbiah said the rules should be given a purposive rather than a narrow literalistic construction in order to appreciate them.
He expressed the hope that judges would arrive at a delicate balance that the rules seek to achieve.
He said most countries were looking up to the ratification of the rules by the USA after which there would be a cascading of countries ratifying it, adding, “At the moment China also feels the liabilities are too high.”