S N Beare – Chairman


The Carriage of Goods Standing Committee met twice during 1997 and has been concerned with the following topics.

Electronic Commerce

The UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce was approved by a resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16th December 1996. Bob Howland was on the panel at the session devoted to electronic commerce at the CMI Centenary Conference in Antwerp in June 1997 and spoke on the application of articles 16 and 17. The CMI working group, of which Bob Howland is a member, will continue to assist UNCITRAL in its continued efforts to unify aspects of electronic commerce. The standing committee has taken full note of these developments and, through Paul Mallon, is also kept informed of the development of the Bolero project.

Uniformity of the Law of the Carriage of Goods by Sea

The International Sub-Committee of the CMI held its fourth meeting in February 1997, at which the BMLA was represented by the Chairman and Paul Koronka. Following that meeting, the Chairman of the Sub-Committee, Professor Berlingieri, drafted a report for consideration at the CMI Centenary Conference. The report was discussed at the Conference in an open session, but the discussion was concentrated on five specific issues, namely the liability regime, the identity of the carrier, the period of application of uniform rules, jurisdiction and arbitration. A full report of this discussion is included in the CMI Year Book 1997.

Professor Berlingieri has since circulated a draft updated report, on which comments have been invited from National Associations. It will be considered by the standing committee at its next meeting.


Review of the Functions of Bills of Lading

UNCITRAL has invited the CMI to co-operate with it in a wider review of the functions of bills of lading. Members of the International Sub-Committee were invited to express their ideas informally on the scope of such a review and John Bassindale and Diana Faber produced a paper, which the standing committee adopted, formulating its views on this topic. Professor Berlingieri referred to how the CMI might respond to UNCITRAL’s invitation in his report for the Centenary Conference and the question was discussed briefly at the open session. It was, however, emphasised that the final decision on how the CMI should proceed would be made by the CMI Executive Council.

The CMI has now accepted UNCITRAL’s invitation. The Executive Council has established a steering committee to determine how this work should go forward and to co-ordinate this work with that of the existing International Sub-Committee and the EDI working group.

It is likely the National Associations will continue to to be closely involved in this work.


Multimodal Transport

The standing committee has not specifically worked on this topic during the year. It is likely to be embraced in the work mentioned above.


Jurisdiction Clauses in Bills of Lading

The BMLA was asked for assistance on this topic, at exceedingly short notice, by the Shipping Policy Division of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. This assistance was requested in connection with a proposed intervention by the Department of Trade and Industry in a case from the Supreme Court of Cassation in Italy to the European Court of Justice concerning the interpretation of the 1968 Brussels Convention, and in particular article 17. The BMLA was able to respond within the time permitted by the Department.