- Carrier's rights and immunities — Regulation of carriage of goods — Limitation of liability
This chapter assesses limitations periods under domestic law and the Hague, Hague-Visby, and Rotterdam Rules. A core component in the litigation strategy of any claimant, whether under the general law or the carriage of goods by sea, is the potential for any statutory or convention time bar to eliminate the claim, if not brought in time. As the leading text on the subject explains ‘a limitation period is construed as including any provision which specifies a time-limit within which legal proceedings of a particular kind must be brought or, exceptionally, within which notice of a claim or dispute must be given to another party’. In practice, the time bar is the most powerful weapon in the hands of the carrier and the most dangerous defence which the cargo claimant faces. It has often been stated that the reason in the carriage context for the time bar is that it ‘meets an obvious commercial need, namely, to allow shipowners, after that period, to clear their books’. The restriction is not, however, reciprocal: if the shipowner sues the shipper or consignee, for example for freight or demurrage, or for the carriage of dangerous cargoes, then its claim is not subject to the restrictive one-year time bar which is a major component of the Hague and Hague-Visby Rules.
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