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Carriage of goods

International conventions

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)?

Norway is a party to and has ratified the International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law relating to Bills of Lading, as amended by the Brussels Protocol 1968 (the Hague-Visby Rules). The Hague-Visby Rules have been incorporated into the Maritime Code 1994 without any notable modifications.

Norway is also a party to the United Nations Convention on the Carriage of Goods by Sea 1978 (the Hamburg Rules), although it has not been ratified. However, some of the convention’s provisions that do not conflict with the Hague-Visby Rules have been incorporated into the Maritime Code.

In 2009 Norway signed the Convention of Contracts for the International Carrying of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea 2008 (the Rotterdam Rules), with the purpose of unifying the Hague-Visby Rules and the Hamburg Rules. However, as is the case with most other maritime nations, Norway has yet to ratify the Rotterdam Rules and is not expected to do so in the near future.

Carrier’s responsibility

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

Under Section 274 of the Maritime Code, carriers have a mandatory responsibility for goods in their custody. This is more comprehensive than the extent of responsibility required under the Hague-Visby Rules and instead follows Article 4 of the Hamburg Rules. This responsibility is incorporated in all Nordic maritime codes and includes the loading and discharging of goods.

Under Section 275 of the Maritime Code, carriers are responsible for any loss or damage caused to goods while in their custody, unless the carrier can provide evidence that there is a more than 50% probability that the carrier (or any party that the carrier is identified with) has not acted negligently. Liability is therefore based on negligence with a reversed burden of proof. 

Contractual limitation of liability

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

No. The Maritime Code provisions concerning cargo liability are mandatory and any contract clauses deviating from them will be void (similar to Article 3(8) of the Hague-Visby Rules). However, the contract will still be in force and only clauses that are in breach of the mandatory provisions will be invalid.

Title to sue

Who has title to sue on a bill of lading?

Under Section 287 of the Maritime Code, the holder of an original bill of lading and any person with contracted rights under it may be entitled to sue the carrier and sub-carrier for damages with in solidum liability. Therefore, a cargo owner can sue a performing carrier directly under Norwegian law.

Time bar

What is the time bar for cargo claims?

Under Section 501(7) of the Maritime Code, the time bar for cargo claims is one year from the date on which the goods arrived or should have arrived at their place of destination according to the bill of lading. 

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?

A ‘carrier’ is defined as the person responsible for performing a carriage of goods. Under Section 285 of the Maritime Code, carriers can use sub-carriers to take on all or part of the carriage, but the carrier will generally be liable to the cargo owner along with the sub-carriers.

The ‘goods’ are those which are described in the bill of lading. In the bill of lading, the goods must be described in terms of their nature, quantity and any visible damage as of the date on which the carrier takes custody of them. However, the duty for carriers to investigate goods is lenient.

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?

Carriers can rely on the liability exemptions prescribed for in Article 4(2) of the Hague-Visby Rules, including perils of the sea where the event constitutes force majeure. The burden of proof as to whether force majeure has occurred lies with the carrier.

The Maritime Code is supplemented by Articles 5 to 7 of the Hamburg Rules in this regard. Carriers must prove that they, their servants or agents took all reasonably required measures to avoid the occurrence and its consequences (Article 5 of the Hamburg Rules).

Third parties

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

Cargo owners can direct a cargo claim directly to the sub-carrier or agent responsible for the damage. Such a sub-carrier or agent can then rely on the same defences and liability limitations available to carriers under Section 282 of the Maritime Code. The code therefore implements the identity of carrier or Himalaya clause, as incorporated in many bills of lading.   

Deviation from route

Under what circumstances is deviation from the agreed route allowed?

Under Section 340 of the Maritime Code, deviation from an agreed route is permitted only on the grounds of saving lives, ships or cargo or any other ground that can be deemed reasonable.

Carriers can also deviate from the agreed route if barriers (eg, war, a strike, export or import restrictions or an embargo) hinder discharge of the goods at the agreed port of destination. In such cases, carriers can choose a reasonable port of discharge. 

Claims against shipper

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

Shippers are liable to the carrier for any damage caused by negligence on their part or that of a party that the shipper is associated with. This is in line with Article 4(3) of the Hague-Visby Rules and Article 12 of the Hamburg Rules.

This liability includes the delivery of dangerous cargo to the carrier or a sub-carrier without informing it about the cargo’s dangerous nature. Depending on the situation, in such cases carriers can generally discharge or destroy the cargo without any liability. 

Multimodal carriage of goods

How is multimodal carriage regulated in your jurisdiction?

There is no specific Norwegian regulation for multimodal carriage due to the lack of an international convention on this matter. Therefore, the applicable provisions under the relevant regulation for the transport in question apply – for example:

  • shipping is covered by the Maritime Code and the Hague-Visby Rules 1924/1968;
  • road carriage is covered by the Road Carriage Act and the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods (CMR) 1956;
  • aviation is covered by the Aviation Act and the Montreal Convention 1999; and
  • railway carriage is covered by the Uniform Rules concerning the Contract of International Carriage of Goods by Rail (Appendix B of the Convention concerning the International Carriage by Rail 1999).

The question of which rules to apply is predominantly determined by the relevant transport agreement, as evidenced by the issued transport document (ie, the CMR waybill or the bill of lading). However, even if a particular carriage is agreed on and a transport document under such rules is issued, the rules for another transport regime (eg, sea carriage) may mandatorily apply to a particular stage if certain requirements are met. 

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