Owners slam ESC hostility to Rotterdam cargo rules
EUROPEAN shipowners have joined mounting industry criticism of the European Shippers’ Council for its continued opposition to the proposed new Rotterdam Rules on supply chain liability. The Brussels-based European Community Shipowners’ Associations has put its weight behind the forceful earlier comments of US shippers body NITL, which said European shippers were late to the negotiating table and that their perspective “represents a misunderstanding and lack of appreciation of the delicate compromise achieved in the multilateral negotiations”. Ecsa warned that opposing the Rotterdam rules — still formerly known as the Unictral Convention for the International Carrying of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea — will not maintain the current maritime cargo liability regime laid down in the Hague-Visby and Hamburg Rules. “There are clear indications that if the Rotterdam Rules would not become applicable at short notice, the United States will proceed with its own national legislation on cargo liability, that is, a revised US Carriage of Goods by Sea Act,” ECSA said. “Furthermore, the European Commission has also indicated in its Freight Transport Logistics’ Action Plan that it is looking into a legislative proposal for a European multimodal liability regime. This plan has been recently confirmed by a commission official at the occasion of a seminar on cargo and multimodal liability in Helsinki earlier this year.” Ecsa, which timed its statement to coincide with an ESC sponsored conference on the Rotterdam Rules, added: “To suggest, as some have done, that the discussions in Uncitral should be resumed in order to draft yet another international convention in this area to improve or replace the Rotterdam rules is entirely unrealistic and will encounter strong political opposition.” The influential shipowners body urged all states worldwide “and particularly all European Union member states”, to sign up to the convention at the signing ceremony in Rotterdam on September 23 and “to ratify these rules soonest so as to have the necessary modernisation of cargo liability rules as well as legal certainty and uniformity worldwide”. Speaking from Brussels, ECSA secretary-general Alfons Guinier said: “We are puzzled why the ESC is taking this position. After long and sometimes difficult discussions we now have a global agreement which some of ESC’s own members, major European shippers, are in favour of.” ESC general secretary Nicolette van de Jagt said that contrary to Ecsa claims, she did not know of any European shippers that supported the Rotterdam Rules. “To single out this one statement — that European shippers did not participate in the negotiation of the Rotterdam Rules until the very end of the process — is completely incorrect. The ESC has been involved for the last four years, also at the level of the UN,” she said. “Even if this negotiation has been going on for eight years, we have been there for half of the time. It is unfair to say we have not been there.”
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