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Australia's improved marine cargo liability regime to come into force on 1 July.



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THE HON. PETER REITH, MP

MINISTER FOR WORKPLACE RELATIONS AND SMALL BUSINESS

LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

PARLIAMENT HOUSE

CANBERRA ACT 2600

 

1 July,1998

88/98

 

 

AUSTRALIA’S IMPROVED MARINE CARGO LIABILITY REGIME TO COME INTO FORCE ON 1 JULY

 

The Hon Peter Reith, Minister for Workplace Relations and Small Business today announced improvements to Australia’s marine cargo liability regime. Carrier liability for loss, damage or delays to Australian international and interstate coastal cargoes will be extended in scope, enhancing the protection afforded to Australian shippers of sea cargoes.

 

The Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1991 (which was amended in 1997) provides Australia’s marine cargo liability regime. The “COGSA”, as it is commonly called, gives effect to the “amended Hague Rules”. The text of this international convention forms Schedule 1 in the COGSA.

 

The Carriage of Goods by Sea Regulations 1998 , developed in close cooperation with industry, will modify the operation of the amended Hague Rules as they apply in Australia. The Regulations insert in the COGSA a complete text of the modified Rules as Schedule 1A.

 

Mr Reith said that the Carriage of Goods by Sea Regulations 1998 will come into force on 1 July 1998, and will enable Australia’s marine cargo liability regime to:

 

- cover all relevant contracts of carriage (with certain exceptions for coastal cargoes), including electronic forms of contracts of carriage, rather than only bills of lading;

 

- extend coverage to cargoes carried on deck (other than live animals), with certain limited exceptions able to be agreed between shipper and carrier;

 

- extend the duration of carrier liability to a terminal-to-terminal basis (from a “hook-to-hook” basis now);

 

- provide some recompense for shippers’ losses due to inexcusable delays; and

 

- in limited circumstances, provide coverage for Australian import cargo (ie. only where the contract of carriage is not subject to one of the international conventions on cargo liability or a local modification of one of these conventions).

 

The Minister noted that there had been a vigorous debate in Australia between shipper interests proposing the implementation of “the Hamburg Rules” and carrier interests strongly opposing this. (The Hamburg Rules is another inte rnational convention, the text of which forms Schedule 2 in the COGSA).

 

Mr Reith said that from this debate the view had emerged that while the existing arrangements had some deficiencies, there were also serious drawbacks to the Hamburg Rules, both in terms of their drafting, and, more importantly, because Australia’s major trading partners have not adopted them.

 

The Marine Cargo Liability Working Group was set up to examine the issues and report on the best way to improve Australia’s marine cargo liability regime. It comprised industry experts representing shippers, carriers, shipowners, marine insurers and maritime law groups, under the chairmanship of a senior public servant.

 

After extensive discussions, the working group developed a compromise Package of measures which was endorsed by all the maritime industry interests concerned and then by the Government.

 

Mr Reith said the Carriage of Goods by Sea Regulations 1998 successfully completes the implementation of that Package of measures.

 

The Minister noted that implementation of the Package moves the scope of Australia’s marine cargo liability regime some way towards that of the Hamburg Rules, but maintains the Hague Rules basis of our regime, consistent with the regimes of Australia’s major trading partners.

 

Mr Reith commended the members of the Marine Cargo Liability Working Group for their splendid work in negotiating the industry compromise which is reflected in the Package of improvements now being implemented.

 

The working group comprised Mr Geor ge Gibney of ANL, Mr Stuart Hetherington, then of Ebsworth & Ebsworth and latterly of Withnell Hetherington, Mr Michael Hill of Associated Marine Insurers Agents Pty Ltd, Mr John Levingston of Levingstons Solicitors, Mr Ross McAlpine of Mediterranean Shipping Company (Aust) Pty Ltd and Mr Greg Waters of BHP Transport, with a senior public servant as chairman.

 

The Minister also thanked all those industry experts who had provided detailed comment on the Regulations in draft form.

 

Mr Reith commended the excellent spirit in which widely differing maritime industry interests had cooperated to bring these improveme nts to Australia's s marine cargo liability regime to fruition in order to ensure that Australian shippers received appropriate protection in the event of loss, damage or delay to their sea cargoes.

 

For further information contact: Ian Hanke (0419) 484 095

 

 

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