Vasiliy N. Gutsulyak. Clauses in a bill of lading and their legal significance

UDK: 341.9

Vasiliy N. Gutsulyak - Doctor of Law, professor, professor of the department 'Transport Law' of the Law Institute of the Russian University of Transport, honorary worker of the Navy

Abstract. The main document in the process of ‘documentary’ sale of goods is traditionally the bill of lading, a universal multi-purpose document used exclusively for the goods shipped by sea or inland waterway. As practice shows, for example, that in credit transactions the banks as an important link in the sale-purchase contracts negatively refer to the so-called ‘claused/unclean’ bills of lading with certain clauses, since they prefer to get a set of documents that include only ‘clean’ bills of lading. The current paper first of all analyzes the clauses made to the bill of lading that represent unilateral statements by the carrier on certain issues of the contract of sea shipment and do not require agreement with the shipper. The legal significance of the clauses made to the bill of lading is that they are aimed at protecting the carrier from liability for information that may be inaccurate or false, provided by the shipper. However, the negative legal consequences of the clauses made to the bill of lading are that they significantly reduce the evidentiary power of the bill of lading. The current study shows that not any clause made to the bill of lading makes it ‘clean’. In this regard, there have been studied the provisions of a number of international conventions regulating the legal regime of sea transportation of goods, as well as banking practice made in unified rules, which are analyzed in the publications of the International Chamber of Commerce. There has been also considered an important practical question on the appropriateness of issuing ‘clean’ bills of lading if there is doubt about the proper condition of the goods in exchange for the shipper’s guarantee letters providing for compensation of potential losses to the carrier upon delivery of the goods.

Keywords: sale-purchase contract; bank; bill of lading; clauses; international maritime law; captain; sea vessel; carrier; shipper.


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