Claiming Damages in Multimodal Transport: A Need for Harmonisation

Simone Lamont-Black | Ost Colloquium: Multimodal Transport

Multimodal transport operates in a context of carriage law largely governed or at least influenced by unimodal conventions. The interaction of these unimodal regimes leads to unnecessary multi-layered complexities, overlapping legal instruments, and results in lacunae for multimodal transport. Although several contractual solutions have been used in practice to minimise these inherent problems, the mandatory nature of these unimodal conventions limits the scope of contractual provisions and leads to uncertainty. A cargo claimant thus faces many hurdles in establishing and making a valid claim arising out of a multimodal carriage contract.

It is accepted that most claimants will be represented by a cargo insurer and thus may be somewhat removed from the claims procedure and the loss incurred, compared to the uninsured. However, irrespective of whether we narrowly categorise the issue as one between insurers fought by their specialised claims departments, the complex legal framework is extremely unsatisfactory. For a one-time shipper, small exporter, or freight forwarder, who may not be able to avail itself of the same resources as a cargo insurer, the difficulties resulting from this legal patchwork may prove insurmountable. Practitioners still come across cases where either inadequate cargo insurance or no insurance was purchased.