Vienna: Today the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) adopted the draft convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea – commonly referred to as the “UNCITRAL Convention”. The draft convention has spent well over 5 years at the working group level: the next step is for the draft to be approved by annual meeting of the Commission in summer 2008, and then to the General Assembly for adoption.

The overarching goal of the convention is to create a standard international framework to replace the Hague / Hague-Visby rules and the failed Hamburg Convention. And the voyage is far from over: while adoption by the UN is expected, the convention must be adopted by the preponderance of shipping nations if it is to avoid the fate of the Hamburg convention. Significant concerns remain among some nations, including concern over the proposed limitation amounts and the creation of a provision allowing for ‘freedom of contract’, which would allow larger undertakings to contract at terms less onerous than the convention terms.