Hamburg rules of 1978

United Nations Convention on the Carriage of Goods by Sea, 1978


During the 1970's pressure mounted from developing countries and major shipper nations for a full re-examination of cargo liability regimes.


Many, especially developing countries, took the view that the Hague Rules had been developed by "colonial maritime nations" in 1924, largely for the benefit of their maritime interests, and that the imbalance between shipowners and shipper interests needed to be redressed. This led to the negotiation in 1978 of the United Nations Convention on the Carriage of Goods by Sea (Hamburg Rules).


Rather than just amending the Hague Rules, the Hamburg Rules adopted a new approach to cargo liability. Under the Hamburg Rules the carrier is held responsible for the loss of or damage to goods whilst in their charge, unless they can prove that all reasonable measures to avoid damage or loss were taken. Carrier liability is extended to reflect the different categories of cargo now carried, new technology and loading methods, and other practical problems incurred by shippers such as losses incurred through delays in delivery.


The Hamburg Rules were adopted on 31 March 1978 at a diplomatic conference held at Hamburg. The Convention entered into force on 1 November 1992 when the pre-requisite number of countries acceded to the Convention. However, none of the world's major trading nations have acceded to the Hamburg Rules, nor have its provisions been widely incorporated in national legislation, reflecting a general view that the Hamburg Rules have over-compensated in their effort to redress a perceived imbalance in the Hague Rules in favour of shipowners. The Hamburg Rules probably cover less.


Hamburg rules (76 KB)