New UN shipping convention signed in Rotterdam
The agreement, which was signed by 15 countries, will replace all previous agreements on freight shipping.
The Hague – The United States, Denmark, Spain and 12 other countries signed a new UN convention in the Netherlands on Wednesday that will regulate maritime cargo transport in future, Dutch officials said.
The convention, dubbed Rotterdam Rules after Europe's largest port and the venue for the signing, would replace all previous international sea transport pacts and clarify the rights and obligations of all involved in the industry.
"The Rotterdam Rules will give world trade a boost, considering that 80 percent of world trade is conducted by sea," the Dutch transport ministry, Rotterdam municipality and Port of Rotterdam said in a statement.
"If the same law applies all over the world, this will promote international trade and make it more efficient and clearer."
The other signatories are the Netherlands, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Senegal, Switzerland and Togo.
The convention would only take effect one year after 20 countries have ratified it, said the statement. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2008. Currently, 15 countries have signed the convention.
The rules had become necessary to replace outdated conventions that dated as far back as 1924 and made no provision for modern features like electronic data transfer, said a statement on the convention website.
"As a result, gaps have occurred in law and every judge has to reinvent the law individually. National or regional law-making is not efficient as 90 percent of shipping takes place internationally."
The rules increase carriers' liability for damage to cargo and simplify claims procedures in case of damage.
They also introduce the use of electronic transport documents that should shorten processing times, reduce errors and lower costs, said the statement.
The Dutch Transport Minister Camiel Eurlings has called the agreement “historic”, heralding a new era in freight transport.
However, not everyone is positive about the Rotterdam Rules. Dutch shipping companies say while the agreement provides a number of advantages, it is not perfect.
AFP / Radio Netherlands / Expatica