The Maritime Performing Party and the Scope of the Rotterdam Rules

Author:Nicholas Bond
Position:Graduate, LLB (Hons), University of Auckland. The author would like to thank Associate Professor Paul Myburgh of the University of Auckland for his valuable assistance in the completion of this paper
Pages:95-116
 
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(2014) 28 ANZ Mar LJ
95
THE MARITIME PERFORMING PARTY AND THE SCOPE OF THE
ROTTERDAM RULES
Nicholas Bond
*
1 Introduction
The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea
(hereinafter the Rotterdam Rules’ or the Rules’)1 would, if adopted, significantly change the liability regime
surrounding the international carriage of goods by sea.
The Rules seek to harmonise and modernise the law surrounding the international carriage of goods by sea.2
For the first time in an international carriage convention, the Rules allow for modern developments such as
volume contracts3 and electronic transport records.4 They establish detailed rules of liability, with a clearly
shifting burden of proof.5 They modernise the permitted exemptions from liability.6 Significantly, the Rules
may even apply inland.7 Arguably the most far-reaching development, however, relates to an even more
fundamental issue: who will the Rules apply to?
Previous international maritime conventions, such as New Zealand’s current liability regime (the Hague-Visby
Rules’),8 have focused primarily on carriers. The Rotterdam Rules go further, by introducing the ‘maritime
performing party’ (‘MPP’) concept. MPPs are parties which take on certain of the carrier’s obligations during
the port-to-port leg of the carriage. For example, a stevedore which undertakes the carrier’s obligation to load
or unload the vessel would be an MPP. Previous conventions have been silent on the liability of such parties.
Under the Rules, these MPPs take on the carrier’s liabilities.9 They also take on the carrier’s defences and limits
of liability.10
The Rules have been slow to gather the 20 ratifications required to enter into force (at present only Spain, Togo
and the Republic of Congo have ratified).11 The United States has, however, taken some steps towards
ratification.12 There is reason to believe that once the United States ratifies the Rules, other nations will
follow.13 It is therefore worthwhile to examine the nature of the MPP concept, how it is intended to improve the
scope of the Rules, and whether it succeeds.
2 Overview of the MPP Concept
The MPP under the Rotterdam Rules is a subcategory of performing party’ (‘PP). Essentially, a PP is a person
other than the contracting ‘carrier’ who undertakes components of the carrier’s obligations under the carriage
* Graduate, LLB (Hons), University of Auckland. The author would like to thank Associate Professor Paul Myburgh of the University of
Auckland for his valuable assistance in the completion of this paper.
1 United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea (Rotterdam Rules), opened for
signature 23 September 2009, UN Doc A/RES/63/122 (not yet in force).
2 Rotterdam Rules preamble.
3 Ibid art 80.
4 Ibid art 8.
5 Ibid art 17.
6 Ibid art 17(3). A notable casualty of the Rotterdam Rules is the ‘nautical fault’ exemption in art 4(2)(a) of the Hague Rules. See, eg, PA
Myburgh, ‘Charting the Limits of the Nautical Fault Exemption’ [2008] Lloyd’s Maritime & Commerical Law Quarterly 291, 294, who
describes the nautical fault exemption as ‘an unprincipled anachronism on the verge of extinction.’
7 Rotterdam Rules art 12(1).
8 Maritime Transport Act 1994 (NZ) s 209, incorporating the International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law relating
to Bills of Lading (Hague Rules), 1924, 120 LNTS 155 as amended by the Protocol to Amend the International Convention for the
Unification of Certain Rules of Law relating to Bills of Lading, signed at Brussels on 25th August 1924 (Visby Protocol), 1968, 1412 UNTS
128 and the Protocol Amending the International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law relating to Bills of Lading, 25
August 1924, as amended by the Protocol of 23 February 1968 (SDR Protocol), 1979, 1412 UNTS 146.
9 Rotterdam Rules 19(1).
10 Ibid arts 4(1), 19(1).
11 United Nations Treaty Collection, United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by
Sea (27 November 2014) https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?mtdsg_no=XI-D-8&chapter=11&lang=en>.
12 LeRoy Lambert, Web Alert: Rotterdam Rules Clear Significant Hurdle on Way to Ratification by United States (14 June 2013) The
Standard http://www.standard-club.com/news-and-knowledge/news/2013/06/web-alert-rotterdam-rules-clear-significant-hurdle-on-way-
to-ratification-by-the-united-states/ >.
13 Mary Helen Carlson, ‘US Participation in Private International Law Negotiations: Why the UNCITRAL Convention on Contracts for the
International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea Is Important to the United States’ (2009) 44 Texas International Law Journal 269,
273.
The Maritime Performing Party and the Scope of the Rotterdam Rules
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contract.14 An MPP is a PP to the extent that it acts within the port-to-port segment (maritime leg) of the
carriage.15
This geographic distinction is significant because (as noted) the Rotterdam Rules may apply beyond the
maritime leg.16 The Rules extend obligations to the carrier from the place of receipt to the place of delivery
under the contract of carriage.17 Either receipt or delivery may be inland. The total contract of carriage may
therefore cover several leg s: an ‘inland leg’ from the place of receipt to the port of loading, a mar itime leg from
arrival at the port of loading to departure from the port of discharge, and a second inland leg from the port of
discharge to the place of delivery. Where the carrier subcontracts any of its obligations on an inland legs, the
party which undertakes them will be a PP but not an MPP. Only parties which undertake the carrier’s
obligations on the maritime leg will be MPPs.
For example, a freight forwarder (acting as a principal)18 might contract with a shipper to carry milk powder
from Hawera to Shanghai. The freight forwarder arranges for KiwiRail to carry the goods from Hawera to Port
Taranaki, and for a shipowner to carry the goods to Shanghai.
In this scenario the freight forwarder is the carrier, ev en though it does not physically perform any of the
carriage itself. It entered into a contract of carriage with the shipper.19 KiwiRail is a PP, but not an MPP. It
carries the goods from the place of receipt to the port, but takes no part in the maritime leg. The shipowner is an
MPP. It carries the goods during the maritime leg. The stevedores and others involved in loading and handling
the goods at Port Taranaki are also MPPs. They load and handle the goods during the maritime leg.
Whether a party is the carrier, a PP, or an MPP will determine the scope of its potential liability under the Rules.
The carrier, under the Rules, is liable to the cargo interest over the entire carriage period for loss, damage or
delay.20 It is liable for breaches caused by PPs (including MPPs).21 If KiwiRail or the shipowner damaged the
goods, the freight forwarder (as ‘carrier’) would be liable to the cargo interest.
The Rules also impose joint and several liability on MPPs.22 As it has received the goods in a Contracting State
(New Zealand), the shipowner would be liable under the Rules for any damage, loss or delay caused in the
maritime leg while it had custody of the goods or was performing an activity under the carriage contract.23
PPs which are not MPPs have no liability under the Rules. KiwiRail would have no liability under the Rules for
any damage, loss or delay that it caused. A cargo interest that wished to pursue KiwiRail would need to rely on
another cause of action outside the Rules.24
Liabilities and obligations are coupled with defences and limits to liability under the Rules. Carriers and MPPs
may raise the defences contained in the Rules against any action, whether founded in contract, tort, or
otherwise25 whereas PPs may not.
14 Rotterdam Rules art 1(6):
(a) ‘“Performing party” means a person other than the carrier that performs or undertakes to perform any of the
carrier’s obligations under a contract of carriage with respect to the receipt, loading, handling, stowage,
carriage, keeping, care, unloading or delivery of the goods, to the extent that such person acts, either directly
or indirectly, at the carrier’s request or under the carrier’s supervision or control.
(b) ‘Performing party’ does not include any person that is retained, directly or indirectly, by a shipper, by a
documentary shipper, by the controlling party or by the consignee instead of by the carrier.”
Note that the text as originally passed omitted ‘keeping’ from the obligations listed in art 1(6)(a). This was apparently a drafting oversight,
and was subsequently corrected in January 2013: see Michael F Sturley, ‘Amending the Rotterdam Rules: technical corrections to the UN
Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea’ (2012) 18 Journal of International Maritime
Law 423.
15 Rotterdam Rules art 1(7): ‘“Maritime performing party” means a performing party to the extent that it performs or undertakes to perform
any of the carrier’s obligations during the period between the arrival of the goods at the port of loading of a ship and their departure from the
port of discharge of a ship. An inland carrier is a maritime performing party only if it performs or undertakes to perform its services
exclusively within a port area.’
16 Ibid art 1(1).
17 Ibid arts 5(1), 12(1).
18 See, eg. Granville Oil & Chemicals Ltd v Davis Turner & Co Ltd [2003] EWCA Civ 570 (15 April 2003).
19 Rotterdam Rules art 1(5): ‘“Carrier’ means a person that enters into a contract of carriage with a shipper.’
20 Ibid art 17(1).
21 Ibid art 18(a).
22 Ibid art 20.
23 Ibid art 19(1).
24 In New Zealand any claim would need to be under the Carriage of Goods Act 1979 (NZ) (‘COGA’), as s 6 of that Act excludes liability
under any other cause of action (eg. in tort or bailment). However, as an ‘actual carrier’, Kiwirail would have no direct liability to the cargo
interest under COGA in most circumstances: see COGA s11(1).
25 Rotterdam Rules art 4(1).

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