Modernizing and Reforming U.S. Maritime Law: The Impact of the Rotterdam Rules in the United States

By Sturley, Michael F. | Texas International Law Journal, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Modernizing and Reforming U.S. Maritime Law: The Impact of the Rotterdam Rules in the United States


Sturley, Michael F., Texas International Law Journal


I. Introduction

After seven years of work by the U.N. Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)1 and its Working Group III on Transport Law, which followed almost four years of preparatory work by the Comité Maritime International (CMI),2 the United Nations last December adopted its "Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea"3 (referred to here as "the Convention" or "the Rotterdam Rules"). The Convention, which will supersede the Hague,4 Hague-Visby,5 and Hamburg Rules,6 will be signed at a formal ceremony in Rotterdam on September 23, 20097 and will enter into force when twenty countries have ratified it.8 As this process goes forward, it will be helpful to compare the new Convention with existing law and consider the broader impact that the changes are likely to have. Other participants in this symposium address some of the most important aspects of the Convention and compare those proposals to existing legal regimes.9 In this article, I therefore focus on aspects that others do not address in relevant detail and discuss how those proposed changes would impact the law of the United States in particular.10

If we focus on the big picture, the Convention's proposed changes to U.S. law will not be earth-shattering. The new convention is deliberately evolutionary, not revolutionary. The focus is on updating and modernizing the existing legal regimes that govern the carriage of goods,11 filling in some of the gaps that have been identified in practice over the years,12 and harmonizing the governing law when possible.13 Indeed, several proposals to deal with more revolutionary subjects, or at least subjects in which harmonization would have been difficult, were abandoned precisely so that the Working Group could in fact complete the project and address the core issues.14

In the United States today, the governing legal regime is the 1936 Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA),15 which is, for the most part, simply the domestic enactment of the 1924 Hague Rules.16 Updating and modernizing are particularly necessary when a law drafted over 85 years ago still regulates an industry that has changed remarkably in the meantime.17 The draftsmen of the early 1920s did not anticipate the container revolution,18 let alone electronic commerce,19 so COGSA is even more outdated than the more modern international regimes that most of the world's commercial powers and most U.S. trading partners have already adopted.20 The benefits of international uniformity in this field are well known and widely accepted,21 but the need to harmonize U.S. law with the rest of the world's is particularly acute. Unique U.S. doctrines have developed over the years with the result that COGSA as applied by the U.S. courts not only differs from the more modern international regimes, but is also out of step even with the international understanding of the Hague Rules.22

Despite the heavy focus on modernization and harmonization, some of the Convention's evolutionary changes include modest reforms in legal doctrine. Perhaps the most visible of these changes is the elimination of the heavily criticized "navigational fault" exception,23 which currently permits a carrier to escape liability for cargo damage caused by the crew's negligence in the navigation or management of the vessel.24 But a number of other provisions in the Convention, some of which are of key importance,25 will also change the law to make it better suited to meet the needs of the industry as it enters the 21st century.

II. SCOPE OF APPLICATION

Although COGSA as a whole is primarily the U.S. enactment of the Hague Rules,26 its scope of application differs from other nations' regimes in several key respects. Some of these differences arise from differing interpretations of a uniform text. Both COGSA and the Hague Rules, for example, are limited in their application "only to contracts of carriage covered by a bill of lading or any similar document of title. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Modernizing and Reforming U.S. Maritime Law: The Impact of the Rotterdam Rules in the United States
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.