Carriage of Goods by Sea
Just over a fortnight ago, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Ports and Shipping unanimously passed the Carriage of Goods by Sea Bill 2011 to be presented before the National Assembly for further legislation and house vote. The proponents / lobbyists behind the Bill claim that this was a necessity as the time had come to update / replace British era laws and bring them at par with international best practices. It is unquestionable that archaic laws need be amended in due course to bring them in line with the changing requirements of the world. However, when one embarks on such a task it should be done keeping in mind not only the prevailing international practices but also its economic and commercial viability and policies. The Bill that is proposed is one favouring a Neocolonialist approach, i. e being skewed in favor of the First World ship owning nations and their P&I Clubs rather than our own mercantile / business community.
The Hague Visby Rules 1968 (as amended by SDR Protocol of 1979) and the United Nations Convention on the Carriage of Goods by Sea 1978 (informally known as the Hamburg Rules) are the principal international conventions dealing with laws in respect of carriage of goods by sea. The objective of Hague-Visby Rules was to protect shippers / cargo owners from widespread exclusion of liability by sea carriers / ship owners. The 1968 Rules, however, failed to displace the upper hand the carriers historically held against the cargo owners. As a consequence the Hamburg Rules were incorporated; the driving force behind the convention was an attempt by the developing countries to level the playing field via a vis the shift of power between the shipper / cargo owners and the ship owner / carriers. Mazhar Imtiaz Lari,