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Carriage of goods

International conventions Carrier’s responsibility

What is the official extent of the carrier’s responsibility for goods?

The carrier has a duty to “duly and carefully load, handle, stove, carry, store, care of and discharge the cargo” from the moment of accepting it for carriage to the moment of its delivery.

Contractual limitation of liability

May parties contract out of any legal provisions governing cargo liability?

The parties can contract out of liability in cases where carriage is not conducted in accordance with the bill of lading (or another document of title) or where an agreement in respect of release from liability or reduction of limits of liability concerns the period between acceptance of cargo for carriage and its loading onto the vessel and/or the period between its discharge and delivery.

Title to sue

Who has title to sue on a bill of lading?

The shipper or a party to which a bill of lading was transferred in due order can sue under a bill of lading. The shipper and consignee can also assign the right to sue the carrier to the freight forwarder or the insurer. 

Time bar

What is the time bar for cargo claims?

The time bar for claims arising from a contract of carriage of cargo is one year.

Definition of ‘carrier’ and ‘goods’

How are ‘carrier’ and ‘goods’ defined in respect of cargo claims? Is there any especially pertinent case law on this issue?

The ‘carrier’ is defined as a party which entered into the contract of carriage of goods with the shipper or the charterer, or on behalf of which a contract of carriage is entered into. There is no definition of ‘cargo’, but generally any items accepted for carriage under a contract of carriage of goods will be considered as cargo.

Defences available to carrier

Under what circumstances may the carrier rely on the perils of the sea defence? What other defences are available to the carrier?

In order to rely on the ‘perils of the sea’ defence, the carrier must prove that loss or damage of cargo, or delay in delivery, occurred due to such circumstances and not to the carrier’s own deliberate or negligent actions.

The carrier is also entitled to an exemption from liability in the following cases:

  • force majeure events;
  • faults in navigation (unless cargo is carried in cabotage);
  • measures to save lives or reasonable attempts to save property at sea;
  • fire, if it occurred without the fault of the carrier;
  • acts or orders of authorities (eg, detention, arrest or quarantine);
  • acts of war or civil commotions;
  • acts or omissions of the shipper or the consignee;
  • inherent defects in the cargo or natural loss;
  • faults in packing which are not evident or inadequate marking;
  • strikes or other events which caused stoppage of works; and
  • other circumstances which are not due to the fault of the carrier, its employees or agents.

Third parties

What legal protections and defences against cargo claims are available to agents of the carrier and other third parties (eg, Himalaya clauses)?

A Himalaya clause is de facto included under the Russian legislation, and exemptions from and limitations to liability are available to agents or employees, provided that they can prove that they acted within the scope of their duty.

Deviation from route

Under what circumstances is deviation from the agreed route allowed?

Deviation from an agreed route (if a particular route was agreed on, which is rarely the case, with choice of route being in the purview of the carrier, provided that the route is customary) is allowed in cases where exemptions from liability for the carrier would generally apply – in particular, in case of attempts to save life or reasonable attempts to salvage property at sea. 

Claims against shipper

What claims can the carrier pursue in respect of the shipper’s failure to meet its obligations?

Russian law generally does not limit the list of claims which the carrier can pursue against the shipper. The general rule in this respect is similar to that provided by the Hague-Visby Rules: the shipper is liable for losses caused to the carrier unless it proves that such losses are not due to the shipper’s fault or to a fault of the parties for performance for which the shipper is liable.

Multimodal carriage of goods

How is multimodal carriage regulated in your jurisdiction?

There are no specific regulations in respect of multimodal carriage in Russian law. In such cases, relations between the parties are regulated by the general rules in respect of carriage, provided in the respective chapter of the Civil Code, and by respective contracts.

Is your jurisdiction party to any international conventions on the carriage of goods by sea? If so, does the relevant domestic implementing law contain any notable modifications (eg, extensions to the scope of application)?

Russia is party to the Hague-Visby Rules. The rules are implemented into national legislation as Chapter VIII of the Merchant Shipping Code without substantial modifications.