Contract of Carriage of Goods By Sea
- Commercial exploitation of marine environment manifests in numerous and varied forms; on top of which is the carriage of goods by sea as one of the most important forms of exploitation as not only the cornerstone of international trade movement but also its backbone, taking into account that this role played by the carriage by sea is only a consequence of acquiring an enormous volume of international trade which is not challenged by any other types of transport given the fact that ships have distinguished characteristics which are lacking in other types of transport, including their ability to transfer tremendous and heavy quantities of goods and raw materials. Maritime transport is also considered less expensive than other types of transport.
- In this sense, Article 143 of the Qatari Maritime Law defines the contract of carriage of goods by sea as any contract whereby the carrier, whether an owner, operator or charterer of a ship, undertakes to carry goods by sea to a specified port against payment of freight.
- It is worth stressing that maritime transport is considered one of the most important operations carried out by ships as a marine navigational instrument since maritime transport is of particular significance in the light of maritime transport issues. Besides, the importance of maritime transport cannot be overstated since it has a substantial economic and commercial impact, both domestically and internationally, being a process that facilitates the exchange of goods in all countries of the world, as well as being one of the world’s most important modes of transport of goods through which most international business exchanges occur. Against this backdrop, increased attention has been paid to maritime transport both domestically and internationally by attempting to unify the governing rules since ships sail in international and territorial waters heading to several countries.
- In line with the above, and owing to the importance of the carriage of goods by sea, the national legislation has sought to regulate its provisions considering that its territorial waters are part of its sovereignty and provide protection to the ships that fly its flag; hence, they acquire its nationality. Eventually, the national legislation protects its interests depending on whether a country owns a maritime fleet or not; in this case, the national legislation seeks to protect the carriers; or if a country is a shipper or an importer and does not own a maritime fleet, it will protect the shippers. Due to the fact that most maritime transport operations are characterized by being international, the international community has paid attention to unifying its regulations. Therefore, transport was the subject of many international agreements, for example the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea, known as the Rotterdam Rules adopted in 2008.
- The first paragraph of Article 1 of the Rotterdam Rules 2008 defines the contract of carriage of goods by sea as:
- “Contract of carriage means a contract under which a carrier, against the payment of freight, undertakes to carry goods from one place to another. The contract shall provide for carriage by sea and may provide for carriage by other modes of transport in addition to the sea carriage”.
- We should also note that this convention has expanded the scope of application of its provisions to include all stage of transport as long as one of those stage was made by sea based on the fact that the Rotterdam Rules mainly regulate the carriage of goods by sea, with the possibility to extend its scope to include non-maritime transport, meaning the transfer by other modes (road transport – river transport – rail transport). The point is to unify the rules of the contract of carriage to include multimodal transport. However, this convention is one of the treaties that did not enter into force since at least 20 countries need to ratify the Rotterdam Rules to come into effect. But only three countries have ratified the Rotterdam Rules, namely the Republic of the Congo on 28/01/2014, Spain on 19/01/2011 and the Togolese Republic on 17/07/2012 while twenty five countries have signed the Rotterdam Rules. Accordingly, this convention has not come into force to this day.