The Hague Visby Rules

Are They Outmoded and Causing Unilateralism?

This work discusses the framework of the Hague, later Hague-Visby rules, its development from origins, eventually their application. The rules came into force in English Law in 1977 and they stipulate a mandatory framework for the carriage of goods by sea other than those conditions negotiated and mutually agreed between shipowners and cargo owners. As demonstrated in many timelines illustrated within numerous works, they were originally compiled as the Hague Rules, then with the amendments in 1968, the framework is labelled Hague-Visby Rules.

Research shows that it is a common fact in law which a shipper is never entirely independent to decide how to transport goods by sea. There are restrictions and additional regulations that apply to all relevant parties. The introduction of the rules was to protect cargo owners from the exclusion of liability, hence providing a compulsory framework of contractual clauses into any contract of carriage. It is also argued that the parties would still feel free to negotiate additional terms, nonetheless no attempt would be made to exclude or lessen the basic framework of the rules, which would cause the liability to be null and void by all means.

The rules were adopted in 1924, which is when the shipping industry involved the steamers with a deadweight capacity of 6,000 to 10,000 DWT. Yet in 2006, Emma Maersk was launched having a speed in excess of 25 knots with a capacity of 157,000 DWT having an ability to transport 15,000 TEU containers. Therefore, given the age of Hague-Visby rules in parallel with the evolvement of the shipping industry, solutions to these changes have been essential and are widely accepted.


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