What are Hague-Visby Rules?

The Hague Rules set an important precedent to maritime issues that were otherwise plagued by chaotic turn-of-events. Drafted and passed in the early 1920s, the international maritime law was originally outlined and is still formally known as the ‘International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law Relating to Bills of Lading.’

The Hague Protocol was amended in the late 1960s and the maritime law post its amendment came to be known across global maritime channels as the ‘Hague-Visby Rules.’

The Hague-Visby Rules stipulate the extent of the governance of the waybill for a cargo ship being chartered alongside the liabilities that stand to be potentially imposed on the parties agreeing to the charter. Thus it follows that in order for the Hague-Visby amendment to be applicable to a particular cargo charter; the waybill is required as the primary document of verify the authenticity of the consignment and all the other details as provided by the concerned personnel chartering the vessel.

Docked Freighter

Though almost every country engaged in maritime activities across the world, follows the outlining of the provisos of The Hague Protocol, certain countries haven’t accepted all the stipulations of the international maritime law. Some of these countries either;

  • Follow the stipulations of the original Hague Rules or,
  • Have established a separate law dealing with the governance and ambit of waybills, whilst including the stipulations of the Hague-Visby protocol or,
  • Have outright not sanctioned the acceptance of the provisos of the Hague-Visby protocol

Each of the 10 articles of the Hague-Visby law, outline in detail the requirement on the part of the shipping corporate that engages the vessel for the necessary operation and the chartering company that provides the required cargo ship.

As per the stipulations specified, the shipping corporate is expected to supply up-to-date and the most accurate of data pertaining to the cargo potentially being consigned. If shipping corporate fails to do so, then as per the stipulations of the Protocol, neither the chartered vessel nor the operator of the vessel will be held culpable for any loss arising out of any accident during the course of the transit.

Hague-Visby Rules

At the same time, on the part of the operator of the cargo ship, it is expected, as per the rules of the law that the vessel engaged is:

  • Thoroughly suited to be utilised for the cargo transiting operation
  • All the vessel’s cargo decks are suitable to be loaded with the necessary cargo load and are appropriately equipped with the required infrastructure

In terms of the ambit of the terminology of cargo, as per the outlining of the international maritime law, all objects and commodities except cattle, fowl and all those variants of cargo which would be required to be placed in the open decks come within the stipulations of the Hague Protocol.

Criticisms and Scepticisms about the Hague-Visby Rules

As imposing and binding as the Hague Rules are, maritime experts and shipping conglomerates argue that the law is greatly in favour with the cargo ships’ operators than the shipping companies. This argument stems from the fact that while the law requires the shipping companies to disclose thorough information about their cargo, in case of any lack of information so provided and a mishap occurring, the operators are absolutely exempted from being liable for the loss of cargo.

  • Similarly even in case of a shipping organisation providing all the required cargo details in the waybill, operators have been exempted from paying recompense to the aggrieved shipping company on the basis of several defined points.
  • In case the cargo has to be thrown into the open sea on account of any maritime emergency, the cargo ship’s operators are required to provide partial compensation to the shipping corporate incurring the loss, as per the Hague-Visby Rules.
  • Such recompense however can be claimed by the shipping corporate either on the basis of each parcel of the entirety of the cargo shipment or on the basis of each kilogram of the total gross cargo tonnage carried by the ship.
  • A shipping corporate claiming financial recompense also needs to note that its claim will be accepted and validated only if the exact quantitative details about the cargo have been provided and listed in the waybill.
  • Additionally, the monetary value for the recompense depends on the cost of similar cargo in the market, while the currency utilised to calculate the amount of recompense depends on the geographic location where the accident has occurred.

 Hague Rules: Conclusion

With many glaring discrepancies in its role as a viable maritime dispute settling authority, the Hague-Visby Rules do indeed present a vulnerable lawful structure. Their presence, in spite of their fallacies, does indeed fill a long-standing void of arbitration in the maritime sector. Two more important laws have been established in the footsteps of the Hague Protocol. Through these established and laid-out norms, it can be hoped that an even brighter lawful light is shed upon the much-evolved marine sector.


dutchcivillaw, maritimeadvocate, admiraltylaw

Image Credits

artusounitmarine, blogspot

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About Author

An ardent sailor and a techie, Anish Wankhede has voyaged on a number of ships as a marine engineer officer. He loves multitasking, networking, and troubleshooting. He is the one behind the unique creativity and aesthetics at Marine Insight.

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