Italy: Time Limits In Italian Law

Last Updated: 19 October 2001
Article by Giando Boglione

Before considering in detail the various "time limits" applicable it is appropriate to clarify that Italian law distinguishes between "prescrizione" and "decadenza": the former may be safeguarded by written demand, while the latter by judicial action only.


1) Claims under Bills of lading

- (i) General rule : Italian Code of Navigation 1942

i.1- A cargo claim relating to contracts of national carriage of goods evidenced by bills of lading is time-barred (prescrizione) after six months from the delivery of goods or part thereof or the last day on which the goods should have been delivered ;

i.2- A cargo claim relating to contracts of carriage of goods where either the port of loading or the port of discharge is located outside Italy, but in a European country or in a country within the Mediterranean Sea, evidenced by bills of lading, is time - barred (prescrizione) after six months from the delivery of the goods or part thereof or the last day on which the goods should have been delivered, unless the Brussels Convention 1924 on bills of lading and further amendments may be applicable.

i.3- The cargo rights deriving from contracts of carriage of goods, where either the port of loading or the port of discharge is located outside Europe or outside the Mediterranean countries, evidenced by bills of lading are time-barred (prescrizione) after one year from the delivery of goods or part thereof or the last day on which the goods should have been delivered (Art.438), unless the Brussels Convention 1924 on bills of lading and further amendments may be applicable.

- (ii) Hague Rules and Hague-Visby Rules (respectively enforced with L.19.VII.1929 n.1638 and L.12.VI.1984 n.243)

Any action by cargo against the carrier pursuant to contracts of carriage of goods subject to the Hague Rules or Hague-Visby Rules is time-barred (decadenza) within one year after delivery of goods or the date on which they should have been delivered (Art.III(6)).

2) Claims under Charterparties

-(i) General Rule: Italian Code of Navigation 1942

i.1- Claims relating to time-charters are time-barred (prescrizione) within one year after the expiring date of the contract or after the end of the last voyage should the voyage be extended.

i.2- A cargo claim deriving from voyage charter-parties is time-barred (prescrizione) after one year from the end of the voyage.

Should the voyage either not begin or not end or should the same become impossible, the time-limit above indicated runs from the date of the occurrence of the event which causes that either the performance of the contract or the continuation of the voyage to become impossible (Art.395).

-(ii) Hague Rules and Hague-Visby Rules

If these Rules are specifically incorporated into charterparties by a Clause Paramount, rights arising out of the contract evidenced by these documents are time-barred (decadenza) within one year under Hague or Hague-Visby Rules after delivery of goods or the date on which they should have been delivered (Art.III (6)).



-(i) Any action by a salvor against the ship and/or cargo claiming a reward or salvage compensation shall be time-barred (prescrizione) within two years from the date on which salvage operations terminated (Art.500 of the Italian Code of Navigation 1942; art.10 of the Brussels Convention 1910 and Art.23 of the Salvage Convention 1989).

- (ii) For a claim by cargo to recover cargo's proportion of salvage from ship: as per 1 depending on terms of bills of lading or 2 if charterparty is applicable.



- (i) Actions against colliding vessels for the recovery of damages are time-barred (prescrizione) after two years from the date of the casualty. Any colliding vessel must enforce his right to obtain contribution by the others at fault within one year from the date of payment (Art.487 of the Italian Code of Navigation 1942 ; Art.7 of the Brussels Convention 1910).

- (ii) Actions against carrying vessels shall be time-barred (prescrizione) as per 1 depending on terms of bill of lading or 2 if charterparty is applicable.



- (i) General Rule : Italian Code of Navigation 1942

The recovery action against the shipbuilder for non conformity or hidden defects of the ship shall be time barred (prescrizione) within two years from the delivery of the vessel.

- (ii) Standard Shipbuilding Contracts: AWES (Association of West European Shipbuilders) Shipbuilding Contracts.

These contracts - applicable between an Italian and a foreign party - may contain special clauses imposing time-limits which are normally shorter than the one indicated above.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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