The European Commission may push for an alternative cargo liability regime for European Union members after finding the Rotterdam Rules to be inconsistent with wider EU transportation policy, the European Shippers’ Council said.
An EC representative, speaking June 22 at an ESC forum in Antwerp on the effects of the Rotterdam rules, said that the new convention “was not conforming to European multimodal expectations.”
The Rotterdam Rules are a new international convention to govern liability for damage to cargo in international shipping, or inland carriage of international goods shipped door-to-door. The rules were developed by an international working group of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law that began deliberations nearly a decade ago. If ratified in the United States, the rules would supplant the 1936 Carriage of Goods by Sea Act.
The rules will be signed at a ceremony in Rotterdam in September.
The EC’s assessment stops short of a regulatory proposal, but it will go through normal channels. The ESC said the commission vindicated the trade group’s conclusion that the Rotterdam Rules were overly complex and discouraged shippers from “integrating short-sea and coastal shipping … into their intra-European, door-to-door freight logistics.”
The ESC’s opposition to the Rotterdam Rules has been strongly criticized in the United States by the National Industrial Transportation League. Peter Gatti, executive vice president, said that the ESC’s opposition is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the new rules.
The ESC’s desire for simplified rules was misplaced, Gatti said. Cargo liability is a complex legal specialty.
Gatti was unsure what role the EC would play in individual countries’ decision to ratify the Rotterdam Rules. He noted that the chairman of the working group was from EU member Spain.
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