Industry Issues

Cargo Liability

For the last seven years, the World Shipping Council (WSC) worked as part of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) to achieve cargo liability reform through the development of a new International convention. The new convention was formally adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2008, and was opened for signature by member countries in September 2009. The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea, now known as the "Rotterdam Rules," will enter into force one year after ratification by 20 countries.

The new convention will cover multi-modal shipments (not just port-to-port as is the case with existing conventions); will permit carriers and shippers to negotiate terms and limits that differ from the convention in volume contracts or service contracts in U.S. trades; will introduce new, more balanced burdens of proof; and, will include a set of obligations for shippers not included in existing conventions. For complete information on the Rotterdam Rules, including full text of the convention in six languages, we suggest visiting UNCITRAL's new website dedicated to this topic.


Learn what led to pursuit of a new cargo liability convention.

U.S. Supreme Court Case

In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case involving cargo liability (Kirby v. Norfolk Southern). The World Shipping Council filed an amicus brief in support of Norfolk Southern, , and the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of both arguments supported by the WSC. Learn more


Such broad-reaching reform of international law has implications for all businesses, so gaining consensus across business sectors is challenging. Realizing this, the World Shipping Council partnered with shipper interests in 2001, to develop a proposal for governments to consider that was endorsed by both shippers and carriers. Learn more