Stow Properly and Carefully. Last updated 06-Apr-2015

Admittedly the Rules may be open to criticism by some shipowners, but as they now stand they represent the best arrangement which in the circumstances could be secured.
P. Maurice Hill, Acting General Manager, Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom, 1 June 1922.

From Common Law to Uniform international code

Several early attempts at end of the nineteenth century to agree on the common form of bill of lading failed to produce any form that would come into general use. It was evident that the decision on a subject with regard to which the interests and opinions of the shipowners and the cargo interests were so widely divergent would never at once commend themselves to all parties. But this difficult work, at least, provided some grounds for common understanding and possible future basis of settlement of several very difficult questions.

Therefore the desire for uniformity in bills of lading united around one goal legislators, business men and jurists finally led to the Harter Act in U.S.A., and then to jurisdiction in the French Courts based upon the principles of this Act, to agreements between shipowners, exporters and underwriters at Hamburg for the export trade, and to agreements between the members of the Baltic and White Sea Conference, as well as to legislation in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Canadian Water Carriage of Goods Act, 1910, together with the Harter Act formed the basement of future Rules. The matter was, in 1910, taken in hand by the Comité Maritime International (CMI), who concentrated its work on the unification of the law on carriage of goods by sea and discussed a proposed set of rules at their Congress at Copenhagen in 1913.

The World War One interrupted this process until the 1921 Antwerp Conference, Conference of the Maritime Law Committee of the International Law Association, held on May 17th to 20th, 1921 and then the Conference of the International Law Association held at The Hague from 30 August to 3 September 1921 which approves, under the name of ‘The Hague Rules, 1921’ the Rules as to carriage by sea. The Rules were finally adopted on the Brussels Convention, 1924.

Although jurists from Common Law countries took a significant part in developing the Rules, the international code, however, did not assume the pre-existence of Common Law liabilities, and is based upon enacted liabilities and enacted immunities. That allowed to give international effect to the main intentions of the proposed legislation.

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