International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law Relating to Bills of Lading
(The Hague-Visby Rules)
(signed at Brussels on 25
August 1924, Brussels, 1968,
Amended by the Brussels Protocol 1968)
In these Rules the following words are employed, with the meanings
set out below:
(a) 'Carrier' includes the owner or the charterer who enters into a
contract of carriage with a shipper.
(b) 'Contract of carriage' applies only to contracts of carriage
covered by a bill of lading or any similar document of title, in so
far as such document relates to the carriage of goods by sea,
including any bill of lading or any similar document as aforesaid
issued under or pursuant to a charter party from the moment at
which such bill of lading or similar document of title regulates
the relations between a carrier and a holder of the same.
(c) 'Goods' includes goods, wares, merchandise, and articles of
every kind whatsoever except live animals and cargo which by the
contract of carriage is stated as being carried on deck and is so
(d) 'Ship' means any vessel used for the carriage of goods by sea.
(e) 'Carriage of goods' covers the period from the time when the
goods are loaded on to the time they are discharged from the ship.
Subject to the provisions of Article VI, under every contract of
carriage of goods by sea the carrier, in relation to the loading,
handling, stowage, carriage, custody, care and discharge of such
goods, shall be subject to the responsibilities and liabilities and
entitled to the rights and immunities hereinafter set forth.
1 . The carrier shall be bound before and at the beginning of the
voyage to exercise due diligence to:
(a) Make the ship seaworthy;
(b) Properly man, equip and supply the ship;
(c) Make the holds, refrigerating and cool chambers, and all other
parts of the ship in which goods are carried, fit and safe for
their reception, carriage and preservation.
2 . Subject to the provisions of Article IV, the carrier shall
properly and carefully load, handle, stow, carry, keep, care for,
and discharge the goods carried.
3 . After receiving the goods into his charge the carrier or the
master or agent of the carrier shall, on demand of the shipper,
issue to the shipper a bill of lading showing among other things:
(a) The leading marks necessary for identification of the goods as
the same are furnished in writing by the shipper before the loading
of such goods starts, provided such marks are stamped or otherwise
shown clearly upon the goods if uncovered, or on the cases or
coverings in which such goods are contained, in such a manner as
should ordinarily remain legible until the end of the voyage.
(b) Either the number of packages or pieces, or the quantity, or
weight, as the case may be, as furnished in writing by the shipper.
(c) The apparent order and condition of the goods.
Provided that no carrier, master or agent of the carrier shall be
bound to state or show in the bill of lading any marks, number,
quantity or weight which he has reasonable ground for suspecting
not accurately to represent the goods actually received, or which
he has had no reasonable means of checking.
4 . Such a bill of lading shall be prima facie evidence of the
receipt by the carrier of the goods as therein described in
accordance with paragraph 3 (a), (b) and (c). However, proof to the
contrary shall not be admissible when the bill of lading has been
transferred to a third party acting in good faith.
5 . The shipper shall be deemed to have guaranteed to the carrier
the accuracy at the time of shipment of the marks, number, quantity
and weight, as furnished by him, and the shipper shall indemnify
the carrier against all loss, damages and expenses arising or
resulting from inaccuracies in such particulars. The right of the
carrier to such indemnity shall in no way limit his responsibility
and liability under the contract of carriage to any person other
than the shipper.
6 . Unless notice of loss or damage and the general nature of such
loss or damage be given in writing to the carrier or his agent at
the port of discharge before or at the time of the removal of the
goods into the custody of the person entitled to delivery thereof
under the contract of carriage, or, if the loss or damage be not
apparent, within three days, such removal shall be prima facie
evidence of the delivery by the carrier of the goods as described
in the bill of lading.
The notice in writing need not be given if the state of the goods
has, at the time of their receipt, been the subject of joint survey
Subject to paragraph 6bis the carrier and the ship shall in any
event be discharged from all liability whatsoever in respect of the
goods, unless suit is brought within one year of their delivery or
of the date when they should have been delivered. This period, may
however, be extended if the parties so agree after the cause of
action has arisen.
In the case of any actual or apprehended loss or damage the carrier
and the receiver shall give all reasonable facilities to each other
for inspecting and tallying the goods.
6 bis. An action for indemnity against a third person may be
brought even after the expiration of the year provided for in the
preceding paragraph if brought within the time allowed by the law
of the Court seized of the case. However, the time allowed shall be
not less than three months, commencing from the day when the person
bringing such action for indemnity has settled the claim or has
been served with process in the action against himself.
7 , After the goods are loaded the bill of lading to be issued by
the carrier, master, or agent of the carrier, to the shipper shall,
if the shipper so demands be a 'shipped' bill of lading, provided
that if the shipper shall have previously taken up any document of
title to such goods, he shall surrender the same as against the
issue of the 'shipped' bill of lading, but at the option of the
carrier such document of title may be noted at the port of shipment
by the carrier, master, or agent with the name or names of the ship
or ships upon which the goods have been shipped and the date or
dates of shipment, and when so noted, if it shows the particulars
mentioned in paragraph 3 of Article III, shall for the purpose of
this article be deemed to constitute a 'shipped' bill of lading.
8 . Any clause, covenant, or agreement in a contract of carriage
relieving the carrier or the ship from liability for loss or damage
to, or in connection with, goods arising from negligence, fault, or
failure in the duties and obligations provided in this article or
lessening such liability otherwise than as provided in these Rules,
shall be null and void and of no effect. A benefit of insurance in
favour of the carrier or similar clause shall be deemed to be a
clause relieving the carrier from liability.
1 . Neither the carrier nor the ship shall be liable for loss or
damage arising or resulting from unseaworthiness unless caused by
want of due diligence on the part of the carrier to make the ship
seaworthy, and to secure that the ship is properly manned, equipped
and supplied, and to make the holds, refrigerating and cool
chambers and all other parts of the ship in which goods are carried
fit and safe for their reception, carriage and preservation in
accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 of Article III.
Whenever loss or damage has resulted from unseaworthiness the
burden of proving the exercise of due diligence shall be on the
carrier or other person claiming exemption under this article.
2 . Neither the carrier nor the ship shall be responsible for loss
or damage arising or resulting from:
(a) Act, neglect, or default of the master, mariner, pilot, or the
servants of the carrier in the navigation or in the management of
(b) Fire, unless caused by the actual fault or privity of the
(c) Perils, dangers and accidents of the sea or other navigable
(d) Act of God.
(e) Act of war.
(f) Act of public enemies.
(g) Arrest or restraint of princes, rulers or people, or seizure
under legal process.
(h) Quarantine restrictions.
(i) Act or omission of the shipper or owner of the goods, his agent
(j) Strikes or lockouts or stoppage or restraint of labour from
whatever cause, whether partial or general.
(k) Riots and civil commotions.
(l) Saving or attempting to save life or property at sea.
(m) Wastage in bulk of weight or any other loss or damage arising
from inherent defect, quality or vice of the goods.
(n) Insufficiency of packing.
(o) Insufficiency or inadequacy of marks.
(p) Latent defects not discoverable by due diligence.
(q) Any other cause arising without the actual fault or privity of
the carrier, or without the fault or neglect of the agents or
servants of the carrier, but the burden of proof shall be on the
person claiming the benefit of this exception to show that neither
the actual fault or privity of the carrier nor the fault or neglect
of the agents or servants of the carrier contributed to the loss or
3 . The shipper shall not be responsible for loss or damage
sustained by the carrier or the ship arising or resulting from any
cause without the act, fault or neglect of the shipper, his agents
or his servants.
4 . Any deviation in saving or attempting to save life or property
at sea or any reasonable deviation shall not be deemed to be an
infringement or breach of these Rules or of the contract of
carriage, and the carrier shall not be liable for any loss or
damage resulting therefrom.
5 (a) Unless the nature and value of such goods have been declared
by the shipper before shipment and inserted in the bill of lading,
neither the carrier nor the ship shall in any event be or become
liable for any loss or damage to or in connection with the goods in
an amount exceeding the equivalent of 666.67 units of account per
package or unit or units of account per kilo of gross weight of the
goods lost or damaged, whichever is the higher.
(b) The total amount recoverable shall be calculated by reference
to the value of such goods at the place and time at which the goods
are discharged from the ship in accordance with the contract or
should have been so discharged.
The value of the goods shall be fixed according to the commodity
exchange price, or, if there be no such price, according to the
current market price, or, if there be no commodity exchange price
or current market price, by reference to the normal value of goods
of the same kind and quality.
(c) Where a container, pallet or similar article of transport is
used to consolidate goods, the number of packages or units
enumerated in the bill of lading as packed in such article of
transport shall be deemed the number of packages or units for the
purpose of this paragraph as far as these packages or units are
concerned. Except as aforesaid such article of transport shall be
considered the package or unit.
(d) The unit of account mentioned in this Article is the special
drawing right as defined by the International Monetary Fund. The
amounts mentioned in h_visby/art/art04_5asub-paragraph (a) of this
paragraph shall be converted into national currency on the basis of
the value of that currency on a date to be determined by the law of
the Court seized of the case.
(e) Neither the carrier nor the ship shall be entitled to the
benefit of the limitation of liability provided for in this
paragraph if it is proved that the damage resulted from an act or
omission of the carrier done with intent to cause damage, or
recklessly and with knowledge that damage would probably result.
(f) The declaration mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) of this
paragraph, if embodied in the bill of lading, shall be prima facie
evidence, but shall not be binding or conclusive on the carrier.
(g) By agreement between the carrier, master or agent of the
carrier and the shipper other maximum amounts than those mentioned
in sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph may be fixed, provided that
no maximum amount so fixed shall be less than the appropriate
maximum mentioned in that sub-paragraph.
(h) Neither the carrier nor the ship shall be responsible in any
event for loss or damage to, or in connection with, goods if the
nature or value thereof has been knowingly mis-stated by the
shipper in the bill of lading.
6 . Goods of an inflammable, explosive or dangerous nature to the
shipment whereof the carrier, master or agent of the carrier has
not consented with knowledge of their nature and character, may at
any time before discharge be landed at any place, or destroyed or
rendered innocuous by the carrier without compensation and the
shipper of such goods shall be liable for all damages and expenses
directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting from such
shipment. If any such goods shipped with such knowledge and consent
shall become a danger to the ship or cargo, they may in like manner
be landed at any place, or destroyed or rendered innocuous by the
carrier without liability on the part of the carrier except to
general average, if any.
Article IV bis
1 . The defences and limits of liability provided for in these
Rules shall apply in any action against the carrier in respect of
loss or damage to goods covered by a contract of carriage whether
the action be founded in contract or in tort.
2 . If such an action is brought against a servant or agent of the
carrier (such servant or agent not being an independent
contractor), such servant or agent shall be entitled to avail
himself of the defences and limits of liability which the carrier
is entitled to invoke under these Rules.
3 . The aggregate of the amounts recoverable from the carrier, and
such servants and agents, shall in no case exceed the limit
provided for in these Rules.
4 . Nevertheless, a servant or agent of the carrier shall not be
entitled to avail himself of the provisions of this article, if it
is proved that the damage resulted from an act or omission of the
servant or agent done with intent to cause damage or recklessly and
with knowledge that damage would probably result.
A carrier shall be at liberty to surrender in whole or in part all
or any of his rights and immunities or to increase any of his
responsibilities and obligations under these Rules, provided such
surrender or increase shall be embodied in the bill of lading
issued to the shipper. The provisions of these Rules shall not be
applicable to charter parties, but if bills of lading are issued in
the case of a ship under a charter party they shall comply with the
terms of these Rules. Nothing in these Rules shall be held to
prevent the insertion in a bill of lading of any lawful provision
regarding general average.
Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding articles, a
carrier, master or agent of the carrier and a shipper shall in
regard to any particular goods be at liberty to enter into any
agreement in any terms as to the responsibility and liability of
the carrier for such goods, and as to the rights and immunities of
the carrier in respect of such goods, or his obligation as to
seaworthiness, so far as this stipulation is not contrary to public
policy, or the care or diligence of his servants or agents in
regard to the loading, handling, stowage, carriage, custody, care
and discharge of the goods carried by sea, provided that in this
case no bill of lading has been or shall be issued and that the
terms agreed shall be embodied in a receipt which shall be a
non-negotiable document and shall be marked as such.
An agreement so entered into shall have full legal effect.
Provided that this article shall not apply to ordinary commercial
shipments made in the ordinary course of trade, but only to other
shipments where the character or condition of the property to be
carried or the circumstances, terms and conditions under which the
carriage is to be performed are such as reasonably to justify a
Nothing herein contained shall prevent a carrier or a shipper from
entering into any agreement, stipulation, condition, reservation or
exemption as to the responsibility and liability of the carrier or
the ship for the loss or damage to, or in connection with, the
custody and care and handling of goods prior to the loading on, and
subsequent to the discharge from, the ship on which the goods are
carried by sea.
The provisions of these Rules shall not affect the rights and
obligations of the carrier under any statute for the time being in
force relating to the limitation of the liability of owners of
These Rules shall not affect the provisions of any international
Convention or national law governing liability for nuclear damage.
The provisions of these Rules shall apply to every bill of lading
relating to the carriage of goods between ports in two different
(a) the bill of lading is issued in a contracting State, or
(b) the carriage is from a port in a contracting State, or
(c) the contract contained in or evidenced by the bill of lading
provides that these Rules or legislation of any State giving effect
to them are to govern the contract;
whatever may be the nationality of the ship, the carrier, the
shipper, the consignee, or any other interested person.
(The last two paragraphs of this Article are not reproduced. They
require contracting States to apply the Rules to bills of lading
mentioned in the Article and authorise them to apply the Rules to
other bills of lading).
(Article 11 to 16 of the International Convention for the
unification of certain rules of law relating to bills of lading
signed at Brussels on August 25, 1974 are not reproduced. They deal
with the coming into force of the Convention, procedure for
ratification, accession and denunciation and the right to call for
a fresh conference to consider amendments to the Rules contained in