Contracts for the carriage of goods by sea and multimodal transport


Key issues arising from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was declared by the WHO on 11 March 2020, and in response to the emergence of new variants, countries have imposed, eased and re-imposed various restrictions on daily life, including for the entry and exit in ports. This has resulted in disruption and delay, with implications for the performance of commercial contracts for the carriage of goods.

This report has been prepared to assist commercial parties to better understand the relevant implications and to consider potential approaches to addressing some of these. It examines some of the key legal issues arising from the pandemic as they affect contracts for the carriage of goods by sea, as well as time charterparties, and multimodal contracts of carriage that (may) involve carriage by sea. It also considers some of the existing standard form clauses that have been developed by industry associations for incorporation into charterparties to provide for commercial risk-allocation as between the parties. Finally, the report provides some relevant recommendations for commercial parties, as well as related considerations for policymakers.

Part A of the report provides an overview of the effect of the pandemic on carriage of goods operations as well as an overview of contracts of carriage of goods by sea, multimodal transport, and time charterparties; and highlights likely types of pandemic-related issues arising.

Part B examines two general contractual issues relevant to all such contracts – frustration and force majeure clauses.

Part C considers specific issues arising for:

  • Ocean carriage under bills of lading and waybills (Section 1)
  • Voyage charters (Section 2)
  • Time charters (Section 3)
  • Multimodal transport contracts (Section 4)

Part D presents and briefly discusses bespoke pandemic clauses that have been developed for incorporation into charterparties, to provide for commercial risk-allocation.

Part E sets out some relevant recommendations for commercial parties, as well as related considerations for policymakers.

Contracts for the carriage of goods by sea and multimodal transport - Key issues arising from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic  (UNCTAD/DTL/TLB/INF/2022/1)
15 Feb 2022