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When is CMR road consignment note acceptable as Combined Transport Document?

by Vlad Cioarec (International Trade Consultant, Romania)

The CMR Convention (Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road) applies to a contract of carriage by road if the place of taking in charge of goods by road haulier and the designated place of delivery are in two different states, of which at least one is a party to CMR Convention. According to Art.2, the Convention would also apply to a combined transport when the road vehicle containing the goods is itself carried over part of the journey by other mode of transport (e.g. rail, sea or inland waterway) and the goods are not unloaded from the road vehicle. This means that if a road vehicle is transported on board a Ro-Ro (ferry) vessel, the CMR Convention applies also to the sea transport. If transported by rail, the CMR Convention would still apply. The CMR Convention shall cease to apply only when the loading unit is separated from lorry in which case the conventions for sea transport (Hague- / Hague-Visby / Hamburg Rules) or rail transport (CIM), as the case may be, shall apply.

This matter is particularly important in Europe where combined transport is seen as a means of shifting the traffic off the road using rail, sea or inland waterways for the major part of the journey. For this reason in 1997 the European Conference of Ministers of Transport adopted Resolution No.97/6 on the Development of Combined Transport whereby the road hauliers are offered tax exemptions in proportion to the journeys that such vehicles undertake by rail, sea or inland waterways in a combined transport operation provided that they show to the competent authority a documentary proof that the transportation done is indeed a combined transport.

When part of the journey is made on board of a Ro-Ro vessel, the documentary proof is to be in the form of a CMR Consignment Note which must bear the remark “transport to ship” and indicate the intended port of loading, vessel and port of discharge. In addition, the second original of the Consignment Note must bear the “on board” endorsement of the Ro-Ro vessel operator with the date of rolling on the ship, the port of loading, the port of discharge with the stamps of port authorities, to comply with art.35 of the Convention.

Art.35 of the Convention provides that a successive carrier (e.g. Ro-Ro vessel operator or a railway company) shall be held responsible for loss or damage occurred during the time when goods were in his responsibility only if he has accepted the goods and the CMR consignment note. Since the forwarders acting as combined road/sea or road/rail transport operators are considered first carriers under the CMR Convention they should ensure that the name and address or stamp of all successive carriers appears in the second original of consignment note in the box provided.

For our discussion, the second original is not an issue since the consignor receives only the first original and this is the document that will be presented to the bank for payment.

Here is what art.19 of UCP 600 requires:

“a transport document covering at least two different modes of transport (multimodal or combined transport document), however named, that … indicates the place of dispatch, taking in charge or shipment and the place of final destination stipulated in the credit, even if:

a. the transport document states, in addition to that place, another place of dispatch, taking in charge or shipment or another place of final destination, or

b. the transport document contains the indication "intended" or similar qualification in relation to the vessel or port of loading or port of discharge.

It appears that such document would meet the requirements of art.19 of UCP 600 and where a CMR Consignment Note bears the remark “transport to ship” and indicates the intended port of loading, vessel and port of discharge. The Article that applies is art.19 (Transport Document Covering at Least Two Different Modes of Transport) rather than art.24 that states, inter alia, the requirements for the road transport documents.

When part of the journey is made on a rail wagon, the documentary proof required in 1997 was CIM/ UIRR Consignment Note which in the meantime has been replaced by newly adopted CIM Consignment Note for Combined Transport.

The option for issuance of CMR Consignment Note or CIM Consignment Note for Combined Transport does not depend on the second mode of transport used but rather on the type of haulage operation: in the case of an accompanied transport operation (when the whole lorry accompanied by the driver is transhipped on Ro-Ro vessel or on rail wagon, as the case may be) the proper combined transport document will be a CMR Consignment Note to comply with Art.2 of CMR Convention cited above, while in the case of unaccompanied transport operation (when only the loading unit, e.g. container, is transported) the proper combined transport document will be CIM Consignment Note for Combined Transport.

June 20, 2007

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