Hamburg rules

Hamburg rules
See also

Hamburg rules is regulations that govern the liability for loss or damage to goods carried by sea and which cover all contracts (including the shipment of live animals and deck cargo) other than charter parties, applicable to exporters and importers alike. There are different signatories to those of the Hague/Visby rules, with a strong African representation. They are rarely used, because the Hague-Visby rules normally apply, unless otherwise agreed[1].

Hamburg rules governing the rights and responsibilities of carrier and cargo interests which may be incorporated into a contract for the carriage of goods by sea by agreement of the parties or statutorily. These rules were adopted by United Nations Convention on the Carriage of Goods by Sea in 1978[2].

New concepts of Hamburg rules

The Hamburg rules introduce several new concepts, all of which tend to increase the liability of the carrier[3]:

  • First, in lieu of the shopping list of exceptions in the Hague Rules, there is a unitary concept of fault'. The carrier is liable unless it proves that it took all measures that could reasonably be required to avoid the occurrence and its consequences. This means that there is a continuing carrier duty for seaworthiness, and the exception to liability for negligence in the navigation and management of the ship in the Hague Rules is eliminated.
  • Second, the fire exception is reduced, and the carrier will be liable for negligent acts of the crew in starting of fighting a fire
  • Third, the carrier is liable for economic loss caused by delay in delivery up to a maximum of 2.5 times the freight charges on the shipment under that bill of landing
  • Fourth, the liability limits are raised slightly above are Visby levels per package or per kilogram, whichever is higher.

Bills of lading under the Hamburg Rules

The principles now mentioned also appear in the Hamburg Rules containing a number of provisions purporting to strengthen the position of the holder of the bill of lading. First, it is stipulated that a bill of lading signed by the master of the ship is deemed to have been signed on behalf of the carrier. This does not add very much to the position under the Hague Rules, since under most maritime laws the master would have an authority to act for his employer in signing bills of lading. However, the problem whether or not the bill of lading has been signed so as to evidence a contract of carriage with the owner, time charterer or somebody else still remains to be solved (the so-called identity of carrier problem).

Further, The Hamburg Rules, with respect to the contents of the bill of lading are much more elaborate than Hague Rules. Both the number of packages or pieces as well as the weight or their quantity otherwise expressed of the goods must be shown in the bill of lading, while under the Hague Rules it is sufficient that one of these particulars be mentioned[4].


  1. M. Hammett 2010, p.158
  2. P. Brodie 2013, p.165
  3. R. Force, A. N. Yiannopoulos 2010, p.212
  4. F. Berlingieri, L. Delwaide 2000, p.106


Author: Brygida Mordarska