With the development of international trade and the increase in use of containers, carriage by sea may form only one leg of a combined transport contract. Modern contracts of carriage usually involve not only a series of different modes of carriage, but also a succession of different carriers. Such contracts take the following forms;

  • A freight forwarder may act as the shipper’s agent and create a series of individual carriage contracts with separate carriers by rail, road or sea.
  • A specific carrier or freight forwarder may act as principal for one stage of the carriage and as agent for the shipper to negotiate independent contracts of carriage for the other stages.
  • A combined transport operator to negotiate a single contract for multimodal transport on a door-to-door basis.

The main problem encountered by the parties to a multimodal contract stems from the potentially wide variety of terms and conditions of carriage in operation between the different modes. The problem is aggravated by the existence of a series of mandatory transport conventions imposing different liability regimes on the operators of the various modes of transport. Attempts to produce a uniform multimodal regime have so far been unsuccessful though the gap has been partially filled by the production of a set of rules for a combined transport document by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) which are available to be incorporated by the parties into their individual contracts. In the absence of any agreement on an international uniform regime, modified versions of the ICC rules have appeared in a variety of standard forms of bill.

The problems encountered in formulating and interpreting a multimodal contract for the carriage of goods can be experienced in the following aspects;

  • The liability of the carrier
  • Locating damage or loss
  • Limitation of liability
  • Claims in tort
  • Combined transport and documentary credits
  • Effect of transhipment etc.
Scroll to Top