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Hamburg Rules defining sea carrier's obligations and liability

International contracts of sea carriage

Hamburg Rules are properly called the United Nations Convention on the Carriage of Goods by Sea 1978, were drafted under the auspices of the UN agency UNCITRAL and introduced in 1992 in response to shippers’ complaints that the Hague and Hague-Visby Rules were unfavourably weighted in favour of the carrier.

The Hamburg Rules are supported by very few States with any significant maritime trade. The main features of the Hamburg Rules of interest to a shipmaster are:

• The carrier is liable from the time he accepts the goods at the port of loading until he delivers them at the port of discharge. (Under the other rules the carrier is liable from “tackle to tackle”.)

• The carrier is liable for loss, damage or delay to the goods occurring whilst in his charge unless he proves that “he, his servants or agents took all measures that could reasonably be required to avoid the occurrence and its consequences”.



• The Hamburg Rules do not give the carrier so many exceptions from liability as the Hague and Hague-Visby Rules. In particular, the carrier is not exonerated from liability arising from negligence in navigation or management of the ship.

• The Hamburg Rules govern both inward and outward bills of lading, whereas the Hague and Hague-Visby Rules govern only outward bills of lading.

• The Hamburg Rules cover live animals, unlike the Hague and Hague-Visby Rules, but the carrier is not liable for loss, damage or delay in delivery resulting from any special risks inherent in their carriage.

• The carrier can only carry cargo on deck if there is a custom of the trade to do so or by an agreement with the shipper. If such an agreement exists the carrier must insert a statement to this effect on the bill of lading. Where goods are carried on deck without a custom of the trade or an agreement with the shipper, the carrier is liable for loss, damage or delay.

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