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Liability for Delay in Multimodal Transport under the Rotterdam Rules
MarIus (Scandinavian Institute of Maritime Law Yearbook) (2013)
  • Olena Bokareva, Lund University

Delay in commercial law is a multifaceted subject involving many aspects. In carriage of goods based on a sale contract, late delivery of goods might have serious legal and commercial implications. Added to this verity, the consequences of delay are more problematic when goods are carried by different modalities. The delivery time of goods in multimodal transport is becoming increasingly crucial. This is largely due to the “just in time” concept which requires not the fastest delivery of goods but rather delivery at the expected time. It is well recognised that unlocalised loss or damage is a major problem in multimodal transport especially in view of increasing container traffic worldwide. However, to localise delay in multimodal transport and determine the primary cause is not an easy task, and international transport law is neither explicit nor adequate with regard to this matter. Among the extant sea carriage conventions only the Hamburg Rules deals with liability for delay. Transport conventions on other modalities do contain provisions relating to delay, but there are no specific rules addressing this issue in multimodal transportation simply because there is no governing international regime. The Hamburg Rules, non-maritime unimodal conventions and some national laws provide that delivery must be made within the agreed period of time, or in the absence of such agreement, within a reasonable time given the circumstances of the case. It is apparent that in practice parties frequently do not specify the time of delivery in their contracts; thus, what constitutes reasonable time and at what point in time delay becomes unreasonable in a particular instance warrants discussion. An important observation in this regard is that the recently adopted Rotterdam Rules contain specific provisions on delay. This convention is not truly multimodal but is rather one that is colloquially referred to as a "maritime plus" regime. It is applicable to door-to-door carriage if certain conditions are met. The principal purpose of this paper is to examine the concept of delay in multimodal transport law in the context of the Rotterdam Rules. The discussion starts with an examination of the current unimodal conventions on the subject of delay. The second part of this paper will consider the difficulties associated with delay in multimodal transport. Thereafter, the focus will be on the delay provisions in the instruments concerning multimodal transport which are not in force together with the non-mandatory instruments including transport documents adopted by major shipping companies. This is followed by a critical analysis of the relevant provisions of the Rotterdam Rules, including a short background to the convention, a brief explanation on how it attempts to deal with multimodal transport and lastly the provision on delay in delivery. It concludes with an opinion on the veracity and adequacy of these provisions.

  • delay in delivery,
  • carriage of goods,
  • multimodal transport,
  • Rotterdam Rules
Publication Date
Spring 2013
Citation Information
Olena Bokareva. "Liability for Delay in Multimodal Transport under the Rotterdam Rules" MarIus (Scandinavian Institute of Maritime Law Yearbook) (2013)
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