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Carriage of Goods: What are the Shipper’s Responsibilities?

When shipping cargo by sea, or through a multi-part method including a leg at sea, the law of carriage of goods by sea applies. The law of Carriage of Goods by Sea is a set of rules which addresses the rights and duties of ship carriers and consignees of marine cargo. It falls under maritime law and is primarily concerned with loss or damage, and the necessary methods of preventing such a loss from happening. 

The law of Carriage requires that a shipper provides a seaworthy vessel, issues a bill of lading, “properly and carefully loads, handles, stows, carries, keeps, cares for and discharges all goods carried,” and to follow the agreed-upon route and not deviate from it. 

The contract of carriage is the specific contract entered into between the carrier of goods and the consignor and is evidenced by the standard terms and conditions printed on the reverse side of a carriage document. While this cannot violate the law, it can set up specific stipulations which may be either vague or not covered by existing law.

When did the Carriage of Goods Law Arise?

Carriage of Goods law dates from the Hague Rules in the 1920’s, though it was updated in 2008 through the Rotterdam Rules. This expanded the law to cover issues such as e-commerce and electronic documentation as well as extending the time the legal claims can be filed, introducing standards of care. However, this has yet to be adopted universally, and the changes of such happening seem slim. As such, each country has its own set of rules and regulations regarding the carriage of goods, which can make the process complicated. The United States abides by a slightly updated version of the Hague Rules called the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act for foreign commerce and the Harter Act for domestic carriage. 

Due to the many complexities of the rules for carriage of goods, should something happen to a shipment you have made, or are waiting to receive, either in domestic or foreign waters contacting a law firm such as Friedman, James & Buchsbaum LLP, can help you determine if you have the right to recover damages.