Bill C-47, the budget implementation omnibus Act, received royal assent on 22 June 2023 and came into force on 20 September. Subdivision A of Division 21 of Part 4 amends the Marine Liability Act (MLA) to, among other things, remove all references to the Hamburg Rules (1978).

Under s.43 of the MLA the Hague-Visby Rules have the force of law in Canada for carriage of goods between contracting states and, subject to some limitation, for inland carriage of goods under 43(2). S.44 of the MLA provided for the adoption of the Hamburg Rules into Canadian law, and a 5-year sunset clause requiring reconsideration by Parliament of whether to bring those Rules into force.

With only 35 states party – and not the United States – Parliament has now seen fit to let the sun set permanently on the Hamburg Rules.

The even more dismal failure of the Rotterdam Rules – with only 25 signatories and a mere 5 ratifications – means that the Hague-Visby Rules will remain entrenched as the dominant regime for determining liability for carriage of goods by sea for the foreseeable future.

Gavin MagrathMagrath’s International Legal Counsel, Toronto, Canada