UK: The Rotterdam Rules: Frequently Asked Questions

Last Updated: 19 October 2009
Article by Craig Neame

1. When will the Rotterdam Rules come into effect?

If twenty states "ratify, accept, approve or accede to" the Rotterdam Rules, the Rules will enter into force 12 months after the twentieth state does so.

2. Are the Rotterdam Rules likely to enter into force on a widespread basis?

Sixteen states, including Denmark, France, Greece, Holland, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the USA "signed" the Rules at the UN Ceremony in Rotterdam on 23 September. Signature signifies an intention to "ratify, accept or approve" in due course. The USA has been particularly vocal in support of the Rules and is committed to getting other states to follow its lead. If the initial sixteen states go on to ratify the Rules then many other important trading states will probably follow. China has also been making positive noises about ratifying the Rules.

3. What would be the earliest date for the Rules to enter into force?

Some states will not need public consultations to "ratify, accept or approve" or to "accede to" the Rules. If twenty such states were to do so quickly then the Rules might come into force on a limited basis as early as late 2010 or early 2011.

States that will undertake public consultations before ratifying the Rules will probably need at least a year to do so. Some states will need two or three years. Denmark, Holland and the USA have already consulted widely and their consultation processes will probably be quick. If they ratify in late 2010 or 2011, with a sufficient number of states that do not need consultations having done so in 2010, then the Rules might come into wider use by 2012.

4. Do the Rotterdam Rules apply compulsorily to charterparties?

No, but parties can incorporate the Rotterdam Rules into a charterparty by means of a clause paramount.

5. Does the Carrier need to issue a bill of lading for the Rules to apply?

No, the Rotterdam Rules apply to all international "contracts of carriage" if any one of the following is in a "Contracting State": place of receipt, port of loading, port of discharge or place of delivery. The Rules apply whether a bill is issued or not, which means that many short sea and waybill movements previously outside the scope of the Hague-Visby will be compulsorily subject to Rotterdam.

6. Do the Rotterdam Rules apply compulsorily to liner shipping contracts of carriage?

Yes, the Rules were developed with liner shipping and multimodal transport "contracts of carriage" with a sea leg particularly in mind. For this reason, some commentators have called Rotterdam a "wet multimodal" or "maritime plus" convention.

7. Do the Rotterdam Rules apply compulsorily to bulk shipping contracts of carriage?

In certain circumstances the Rotterdam Rules will compulsorily apply to bulk shipping. Where a voyage charterer of a ship claims against the shipowner for cargo loss or damage the Rotterdam Rules will not be compulsorily applicable. If, however, the consignee under a charterparty bill (for example a CFR/ CIF buyer) brings a claim against the shipowner the Rotterdam Rules will apply.

8. Do the Rotterdam Rules override the liability regimes in unimodal conventions such as CMR (Road), COTIF (Rail) and Budapest (Inland Waterways)?

No, where the liability provisions in a unimodal convention apply compulsorily, the Rotterdam Rules' liability regime is inapplicable.

9. If CMR, COTIF, etc can still apply to multimodal movements when will the Rotterdam Rules apply to road, rail and inland water legs?

The Rotterdam Rules will apply to any inland legs except where unimodal convention applies compulsorily. For example, if a container is discharged at Hamburg and carried by road to Berlin, the Rotterdam Rules will apply to the Hamburg to Berlin leg because CMR does not govern domestic movements.

10. Can I contract out of the Rotterdam Rules?

If the carrier and shipper have a genuine arm's length negotiation and agree to amend the Rotterdam Rules to improve the position of cargo interests or the carrier, the agreement will generally be enforceable providing certain formalities are complied with. The Rotterdam Rules defi nes such agreements as "Volume Contracts". Terms to reduce a carrier's liability not agreed in a "Volume Contract" are generally void.

11. Is the carrier's seaworthiness obligation more onerous under the Rotterdam Rules than under Hague-Visby?

Yes, under the Rotterdam Rules, the carrier's obligation is to exercise due diligence to make the vessel seaworthy not only before and on commencement of the voyage, but also during the whole voyage.

12. What is the most significant difference between the Rotterdam Rules and Hague-Visby in terms of defences?

The Rotterdam Rules abolish the negligent navigation/ management defence that used to be in Article IV, Rule 2(a) of Hague and Hague-Visby. The abolition of this defence will mean that carriers and their P&I clubs will almost certainly end up paying more claims to cargo interests than has historically been the case. This may lead to an increase of P&I insurance premiums.

13. What are the limits of liability for cargo loss or damage under the Rotterdam Rules?

The Rules provide that the carrier can limit its liability to 3 SDRs per kilo of the goods lost/damaged or 875 SDRs per package, whichever is the higher. Under Hague-Visby, the applicable fi gures were 2SDRs per kilo or 666.67 SDRs per package, whichever was the higher.

14. Do the Rotterdam Rules clarify what cargo interests can claim if the goods are delayed and pure financial losses are suffered?

English law has historically been very unclear on claims for pure fi nancial losses arising out of delay in ocean carriage. The Rotterdam Rules provide some clarity and entitle the carrier to limit its liability for "economic loss" to 2.5 times the freight paid in respect of the delayed goods.

15. What is the general time bar for bringing claims?

No proceedings can be issued after 2 years from the date of the relevant breach under the Rules. There is, however, a longer time bar for "indemnity" claims.

16. Do the Rotterdam Rules change the law on releasing cargo without presentation of an original bill?

Yes, in certain circumstances the Rotterdam Rules impose upon carriers an obligation to verify the identity of the party holding the bill before the cargo can be released.

17. How do the Rotterdam Rules' limitation provisions and the tonnage limitation conventions interact?

The Rotterdam Rules' limitation provisions take effect subject to any applicable limitation convention.

18. If the shipper causes an onboard incident which leads to vessel damage or third party cargo damage, can the shipper limit its liability?

Whilst the right of a shipper to limit its liability was debated in the UNCITRAL Working Group, the idea of giving shippers a right to limit their liability was dismissed on policy grounds.

19. Do the Rotterdam Rules deal with jurisdiction?

Yes, but the relevant articles are optional and many states who sign are unlikely to opt in. For those who do opt in, the jurisdiction provisions provide that the claimant may bring his claim in a variety of jurisdictions which were connected with the relevant carriage. Where the jurisdiction rules apply, exclusive jurisdiction clauses will therefore generally be unenforceable. For those countries not opting into the jurisdiction articles, however, exclusive jurisdiction clauses may still be enforceable.

20. Do the Rotterdam Rules deal with arbitration clauses incorporated into charterparty bills of lading for non-liner bulk cargoes and Volume Contracts?

Yes, arbitration is a well established dispute resolution procedure used in bulk trades and the Rotterdam Rules recognise and uphold arbitration clauses validly incorporated into charterparty bills of lading.

Arbitration clauses in "Volume Contracts" will also be enforceable if certain formalities are complied with.

21. Do the Rotterdam Rules prevent a carrier from declaring general average?

No. The Rotterdam Rules will, however, prevent carriers from recovering general average contributions from cargo interests if the incident was caused by negligent navigation/management of the vessel.

22. Will the Rotterdam Rules encourage carriers and shippers to adopt electronic alternatives to bills of lading?

Yes, the Rotterdam Rules provide that e-bills are "functionally equivalent" to paper bills. The industry will, however, need to develop IT systems with robust security procedures before e-bills can really take off .

23. What other important matters do the Rotterdam rules deal with?

The Rotterdam Rules are hugely ambitious in scope. As well as carrier liability, jurisdiction and arbitration, they deal with direct claims against sub-contractors (such as port operators), dangerous goods, deck carriage, the carrier's identity, deviation, modifying the contract of carriage, what information is required in "transport documents", "freight prepaid" endorsements, the disposal of uncollected goods ... to name but a few areas.

In this note we provide non-technical answers to the questions posed. The Rotterdam Rules are, however, extremely technical and they have not been tested in court. Some of the Articles present real problems with interpretation and our simple answers should therefore not be relied on as a substitute for specific legal advice. Legal comment is from an English law perspective.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.