The Hague-Visby Rules
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The Hague Rules as Amended by the Brussels Protocol 1968
In these Rules the following expressions have the meanings hereby assigned to them respectively, that is to say,
(a) "carrier" includes the owner or the charterer who enters into a contract of carriage with a shipper;
(b) "contract of carriage" applies only to contracts of carriage covered by a bill of lading or any similar document of title, in so far as such
relates to the carriage of goods by water, including any bill of lading or any similar document as aforesaid issued under or pursuant to a charter-party from the moment at which such bill of lading or similar document of title regulates the relations between a carrier and a holder of the same;
(c) "goods" includes goods, wares, merchandise and articles of every kind whatsoever, except live animals and cargo which by the contract of
carriage is stated as being carried on deck and is so carried;
(d) "ship" means any vessel used for the carriage of goods by water;
(e) "carriage of goods" covers the period from the time when the goods
are loaded on to the time they are discharged from the ship.
Subject to the provisions of Article VI, under every contract of
carriage of goods by water the carrier, in relation to the loading,
handling, stowage, carriage, custody, care and discharge of such goods,
shall be subject to the responsibilities and liabilities and entitled to
the rights and immunities hereinafter set forth.
Responsibilities and Liabilities
1. The carrier shall be bound, before and at the beginning of the
voyage, to exercise due diligence to
(a) make the ship seaworthy;
(b) properly man, equip and supply the ship;
(c) make the holds, refrigerating and cool chambers, and all other parts
of the ship in which goods are carried, fit and safe for their
reception, carriage and preservation.
2. Subject to the provisions of Article IV, the carrier shall properly
and carefully load, handle, stow, carry, keep, care for and discharge
the goods carried.
3. After receiving the goods into his charge, the carrier, or the master
or agent of the carrier, shall, on demand of the shipper, issue to the
shipper a bill of lading showing among other things
(a) the leading marks necessary for identification of the goods as the
same are furnished in writing by the shipper before the loading of such
goods starts, provided such marks are stamped or otherwise shown clearly
upon the goods if uncovered, or on the cases or coverings in which such
goods are contained, in such a manner as should ordinarily remain
legible until the end of the voyage;
(b) either the number of packages or pieces, or the quantity, or weight,
as the case may be, as furnished in writing by the shipper;
(c) the apparent order and condition of the goods:
Provided that no carrier, master or agent of the carrier shall be bound
to state or show in the bill of lading any marks, number, quantity, or
weight which he has reasonable ground for suspecting not accurately to
represent the goods actually received or which he has had no reasonable
means of checking.
4. Such a bill of lading shall be prima facie evidence of the receipt by
the carrier of the goods as therein described in accordance with
paragraphs 3(a), (b) and (c).
However, proof to the contrary shall not be admissible when the bill of
lading has been transferred to a third party acting in good faith.
5. The shipper shall be deemed to have guaranteed to the carrier the
accuracy at the time of shipment of the marks, number, quantity and
weight, as furnished by him, and the shipper shall indemnify the carrier
against all loss, damages and expenses arising or resulting from
inaccuracies in such particulars. The right of the carrier to such
indemnity shall in no way limit his responsibility and liability under
the contract of carriage to any person other than the shipper.
6. Unless notice of loss or damage and the general nature of such loss
or damage be given in writing to the carrier or his agent at the port of
discharge before or at the time of the removal of the goods into the
custody of the person entitled to delivery thereof under the contract of
carriage, or, if the loss or damage be not apparent, within three days,
such removal shall be prima facie evidence of the delivery by the
carrier of the goods as described in the bill of lading.
The notice in writing need not be given if the state of the goods has at
the time of their receipt been the subject of joint survey or
Subject to paragraph 6bis the carrier and the ship shall in any event be
discharged from all liability whatsoever in respect of the goods, unless
suit is brought within one year of their delivery or of the date when
they should have been delivered. This period may, however, be extended
if the parties so agree after the cause of action has arisen.
In the case of any actual or apprehended loss or damage the carrier and
the receiver shall give all reasonable facilities to each other for
inspecting and tallying the goods.
6.bis An action for indemnity against a third person may be brought even
after the expiration of the year provided for in the preceding paragraph
if brought within the time allowed by the law of the Court seized of the
case. However, the time allowed shall be not less than three months,
commencing from the day when the person bringing such action for
indemnity has settled the claim or has been served with process in the
action against himself.
7. After the goods are loaded the bill of lading to be issued by the
carrier, master or agent of the carrier, to the shipper shall, if the
shipper so demands, be a "shipped" bill of lading, provided that if the
shipper shall have previously taken up any document of title to such
goods, he shall surrender the same as against the issue of the "shipped"
bill of lading, but at the option of the carrier such document of title
may be noted at the port of shipment by the carrier, master, or agent
with the name or names of the ship or ships upon which the goods have
been shipped and the date or dates of shipment, and when so noted the
same shall for the purpose of this Article be deemed to constitute a
"shipped" bill of lading.
8. Any clause, covenant or agreement in a contract of carriage relieving
the carrier or the ship from liability for loss or damage to or in
connection with goods arising from negligence, fault or failure in the
duties and obligations provided in this Article or lessening such
liability otherwise than as provided in these Rules, shall be null and
void and of no effect.
A benefit of insurance or similar clause shall be deemed to be a clause
relieving the carrier from liability.
Rights and Immunities
1. Neither the carrier nor the ship shall be liable for loss or damage
arising or resulting from unseaworthiness unless caused by want of due
diligence on the part of the carrier to make the ship seaworthy, and to
secure that the ship is properly manned, equipped and supplied, and to
make the holds, refrigerating and cool chambers and all other parts of
the ship in which goods are carried fit and safe for their reception,
carriage and preservation in accordance with the provisions of paragraph
1 of Article III.
Whenever loss or damage has resulted from unseaworthiness, the burden of
proving the exercise of due diligence shall be on the carrier or other
person claiming exemption under this article.
2. Neither the carrier nor the ship shall be responsible for loss or
damage arising or resulting from
(a) act, neglect, or default of the master, mariner, pilot or the
servants of the carrier in the navigation or in the management of the
(b) fire, unless caused by the actual fault or privity of the carrier;
(c) perils, dangers and accidents of the sea or other navigable waters;
(d) act of God;
(e) act of war;
(f) act of public enemies;
(g) arrest or restraint of princes, rulers or people, or seizure under
(h) quarantine restrictions;
(i) act or omission of the shipper or owner of the goods, his agent or
(j) strikes or lock-outs or stoppage or restraint of labour from
whatever cause, whether partial or general;
(k) riots and civil commotions;
(l) saving or attempting to save life or property at sea;
(m) wastage in bulk or weight or any other loss or damage arising from
inherent defect, quality or vice of the goods;
(n) insufficiency of packing;
(o) insufficiency or inadequacy of marks;
(p) latent defects not discoverable by due diligence;
(q) any other cause arising without the actual fault and privity of the
carrier, or without the fault or neglect of the agents or servants of
the carrier, but the burden of proof shall be on the person claiming the
benefit of this exception to show that neither the actual fault or
privity of the carrier nor the fault or neglect of the agents or
servants of the carrier contributed to the loss or damage.
3. The shipper shall not be responsible for loss or damage sustained by
the carrier or the ship arising or resulting from any cause without the
act, fault or neglect of the shipper, his agents or his servants.
4. Any deviation in saving or attempting to save life or property at sea
or any reasonable deviation shall not be deemed to be an infringement or
breach of these Rules or of the contract of carriage, and the carrier
shall not be liable for any loss or damage resulting therefrom.
5. (a) Unless the nature and value of such goods have been declared by
the shipper before shipment and inserted in the bill of lading, neither
the carrier nor the ship shall in any event be or become liable for any
loss or damage to or in connection with the goods in an amount exceeding
666.67 units of account per package or unit or 2 units of account per
kilogramme of gross weight of the goods lost or damaged, whichever is
(b) The total amount recoverable shall be calculated by reference to the
value of such goods at the place and time at which the goods are
discharged from the ship in accordance with the contract or should have
been so discharged.
The value of the goods shall be fixed according to the commodity
exchange price, or, if there be no such price, according to the current
market price, or, if there be no commodity exchange price or current
market price, by reference to the normal value of goods of the same kind
(c) Where a container, pallet or similar article of transport is used to
consolidate goods, the number of packages or units enumerated in the
bill of lading as packed in such article of transport shall be deemed
the number of packages or units for the purpose of this paragraph as far
as these packages or units are concerned. Except as aforesaid such
article of transport shall be considered the package or unit.
(d) The unit of account mentioned in this Article is the Special Drawing
Right as defined by the International Monetary Fund. The amounts
mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph shall be converted into
national currency on the basis of the value of that currency on the date
to be determined by the law of the Court seized of the case. The value
of the national currency, in terms of the Special Drawing Right, of a
State which is a member of the International Monetary Fund, shall be
calculated in accordance with the method of valuation applied by the
International Monetary Fund in effect at the date in question for its
operations and transactions. The value of the national currency, in
terms of the Special Drawing Right, of a State which is not a member of
the International Monetary Fund, shall be calculated in a manner
determined by that State.
Nevertheless, a State which is not a member of the International
Monetary Fund and whose law does not permit the application of the
provisions of the preceding sentences may, at the time of ratification
of the Protocol of 1979 or accession thereto or at any time thereafter,
declare that the limits of liability provided for in this Convention to
be applied in its territory shall be fixed as follows:
(i) in respect of the amount of 666.67 units of account mentioned in
sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph 5 of this Article, 10,000 monetary units;
(ii) in respect of the amount of 2 units of account mentioned in
sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph 5 of this Article, 30 monetary units.
The monetary unit referred to in the preceding sentence corresponds to
65.5 milligrammes of gold of millesimal fineness 900. The conversion of
the amounts specified in that sentence into the national currency shall
be made according to the law of the State concerned. The calculation and
the conversion mentioned in the preceding sentences shall be made in
such a manner as to express in the national currency of that State as
far as possible the same real value for the amounts in sub-paragraph (a)
of paragraph 5 of this Article as is expressed there in units of
States shall communicate to the depositary the manner of calculation or
the result of the conversion as the case may be, when depositing an
instrument of ratification of the Protocol of 1979 or of accession
thereto and whenever there is a change in either.
(e) Neither the carrier nor the ship shall be entitled to the benefit of
the limitation of liability provided for in this paragraph if it is
proved that the damage resulted from an act or omission of the carrier
done with intent to cause damage, or recklessly and with knowledge that
damage would probably result.
(f) The declaration mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph, if
embodied in the bill of lading, shall be prima facie evidence, but shall
not be binding or conclusive on the carrier.
(g) By agreement between the carrier, master or agent of the carrier and
the shipper other maximum amounts than those mentioned in sub-paragraph
(a) of this paragraph may be fixed, provided that no maximum amount so
fixed shall be less than the appropriate maximum mentioned in that
(h) Neither the carrier nor the ship shall be responsible in any event
for loss or damage to, or in connection with, goods if the nature or
value thereof has been knowingly mis-stated by the shipper in the bill
6. Goods of an inflammable, explosive or dangerous nature to the
shipment whereof the carrier, master or agent of the carrier has not
consented, with knowledge of their nature and character, may at any time
before discharge be landed at any place or destroyed or rendered
innocuous by the carrier without compensation, and the shipper of such
goods shall be liable for all damages and expenses directly or
indirectly arising out of or resulting from such shipment.
If any such goods shipped with such knowledge and consent shall become a
danger to the ship or cargo, they may in like manner be landed at any
place or destroyed or rendered innocuous by the carrier without
liability on the part of the carrier except to general average, if any.
Application of Defences and Limits of Liability
1. The defences and limits of liability provided for in these Rules
shall apply in any action against the carrier in respect of loss or
damage to goods covered by a contract of carriage whether the action be
founded in contract or in tort.
2. If such an action is brought against a servant or agent of the
carrier (such servant or agent not being an independent contractor),
such servant or agent shall be entitled to avail himself of the defences
and limits of liability which the carrier is entitled to invoke under
3. The aggregate of the amounts recoverable from the carrier, and such
servants and agents, shall in no case exceed the limit provided for in
4. Nevertheless, a servant or agent of the carrier shall not be entitled
to avail himself of the provisions of this Article, if it is proved that
the damage resulted from an act or omission of the servant or agent done
with intent to cause damage or recklessly and with knowledge that damage
would probably result.
Surrender of Rights and Immunities, and Increase of Responsibilities and
A carrier shall be at liberty to surrender in whole or in part all or
any of his rights and immunities or to increase any of his
responsibilities and liabilities under the Rules contained in any of
these Articles, provided such surrender or increase shall be embodied in
the bill of lading issued to the shipper.
The provisions of these Rules shall not be applicable to
charter-parties, but if bills of lading are issued in the case of a ship
under a charter-party they shall comply with the terms of these Rules.
Nothing in these Rules shall be held to prevent the insertion in a bill
of lading of any lawful provision regarding general average.
Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding Articles, a carrier,
master or agent of the carrier and a shipper shall in regard to any
particular goods be at liberty to enter into any agreement in any terms
as to the responsibility and liability of the carrier for such goods,
and as to the rights and immunities of the carrier in respect of such
goods, or his obligation as to seaworthiness, so far as this stipulation
is not contrary to public policy, or the care or diligence of his
servants or agents in regard to the loading, handling, stowage,
carriage, custody, care and discharge of the goods carried by water,
provided that in this case no bill of lading has been or shall be issued
and that the terms agreed shall be embodied in a receipt which shall be
a non-negotiable document and shall be marked as such.
Any agreement so entered into shall have full legal effect.
Provided that this Article shall not apply to ordinary commercial
shipments made in the ordinary course of trade, but only to other
shipments where the character or condition of the property to be carried
or the circumstances, terms and conditions under which the carriage is
to be performed are such as reasonably to justify a special agreement.
Limitations on the Application of the Rules
Nothing herein contained shall prevent a carrier or a shipper from
entering into any agreement, stipulation, condition, reservation or
exemption as to the responsibility and liability of the carrier or the
ship for the loss or damage to, or in connection with the custody and
care and handling of goods prior to the loading on and subsequent to the
discharge from the ship on which the goods are carried by water.
Limitation of Liability
The provisions of these Rules shall not affect the rights and
obligations of the carrier under any statute for the time being in force
relating to the limitation of the liability of owners of vessels.
Liability for Nuclear Damage
These Rules shall not affect the provisions of any international
Convention or national law governing liability for nuclear damage.
The provisions of these Rules shall apply to every bill of lading
relating to the carriage of goods between ports in two different States
(a) the bill of lading is issued in a Contracting State, or
(b) the carriage is from a port in a Contracting State, or
(c) the contract contained in or evidenced by the bill of lading
provides that these Rules or legislation of any State giving effect to
them are to govern the contract,
whatever may be the nationality of the ship, the carrier, the shipper,
the consignee, or any other interested person.
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