Following the adoption of the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce at its twenty-ninth session in 1996, the United Nations Commission on Trade Law (UNCITRAL) considered, as part of the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) project, a proposal to include in its work programme a review of current practices and laws in the area of the international carriage of goods by sea, with a view to establishing the need for uniform rules where no such rules existed and with a view to achieving greater uniformity of laws. Existing national laws and international conventions left significant gaps relating to issues such as the functioning of bills of lading and seaway bills; the relation of those transport documents to the rights and obligations between the seller and the buyer of the goods and the legal position of the entities that provided financing to a party to the contract of carriage.

At the request of the UNCITRAL Secretariat the International Maritime Committee (IMC) began preparatory work for a new convention [See: A/CN9/497 for the history]. In December 2001 the CMI International Subcommittee completed its preparatory work on the Convention by producing a preliminary draft outline instrument. [See: A/CN.9/WG.III/WP.21].

With some minor changes the draft outline instrument was adopted in 2002 by the UNCITRAL Transport Law Working Group III as a basis for its work. Originally the mandate of the Working Group was to consider port-to-port transport operations, but due to the exponential growth in containerized transport operating under door-to-door contracts, the mandate was extended to take into account the specific needs of land transportation.

After a six year negotiation process the UNCITRAL Working Group completed work on the Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea. On 11 December 2008 UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/63/122 formally adopted the Convention and authorized a signing ceremony for the Convention to be held in Rotterdam on 20-23 September 2009, recommending that the new Convention be known as the "Rotterdam Rules".

The Rotterdam Rules extend and modernize the existing international rules relating to the contract of maritime carriage of goods by replacing the existing Hague Rules of 1924, Hague-Visby Rules of 1968 and Hamburg Rules of 1978.

Text of the Rotterdam Rules: [English] ; [French] ; [Spanish] ; [German]
Travaux préparatoires: [English] ; [French] ; [Spanish]
UN General Assembly Resolution A/Res/63/122: [English] ; [French] ; [Spanish]
Information and URLs relevant to the Rotterdam Rules
Rotterdam Rules [McGill University: Tetley's maritime & admiralty law]
Tetley, William: Some general criticisms of the Rotterdam Rules
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