Vietnam examines joining maritime conventions

July 29, 2011 | 19:15
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Vietnam should carefully consider its decision to join international economic conventions on the carriage of goods by sea as the legal and business environment must be improved, foreign and local experts have recommended.
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The government is considering accession to the Hague-Visby Rules, Hamburg Rules or Rotterdam Rules, which all pertain to transport of goods by sea.

Experts said the Government must examine the details of each convention to assess the requirements for compliance.

Speaking at a workshop on the topic held in HCM City on July 28, Dr Nguyen Minh Hang of the Foreign Trade University 's law faculty recommended two options for Vietnam .

Hang said the country could join only one of the three conventions and amend the Vietnamese Maritime Law to comply with the convention's regulations.

The other option would be not to join the conventions but to perfect the Vietnamese Maritime Law, which contains many similar terms to the conventions.

"Terms in the country's maritime law issued in 2005 are similar to Hague-Visby Rules, including obligations of carriers, liability exemptions, and time for notice of loss of damages," Hang said, adding that the country should not join the Hague-Visby convention.

"The Vietnamese lawmakers who wrote the 2005 Maritime Law used Hague-Visby Rules and Hamburg Rules as references," Hang noted.

Hang said the Rotterdam Rules were the most complete and appropriate for the modern context of maritime carriage.

Also speaking at the conference held by the EU-Vietnam Multilateral Trade Assistance Project (MUTRAP III), Dr David Luff, an expert with MUTRAP III, said 20 countries still needed to ratify the Rotterdam convention. Only Spain has done so.

Luff said 34 countries were contracting parties to the Hamburg Rules, and 88 countries and territories to the Hague-Visby Rules.

No ASEAN-member country has signed or become a contracting party to the Rotterdam and Hamburg conventions.

The Hague-Visby has been criticised as obsolete, according to Luff.

"None of the conventions appear to be ‘universal' in the current context," he said.

He said Vietnam should learn from its trading partners.

"Many of Vietnam's usual trading partners, including China, the US, the EU, Thailand and Korea apply a somewhat mixed regime of their own," he said.

Experts also warned about the impact of the convention on bilateral trade.

Pham Dinh Thuong of the Ministry of Industry and Trade's legal affairs department said the top five import markets of Vietnamese goods were mainland China, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea and Japan.

However, only Singapore has taken part in both Hamburg and Hague-Visby conventions. Mainland China has joined the Hague-Visby, while Japan and Korea have not joined any of them.

He recommended that the country make a careful risk assessment before joining any of the conventions, and include the involvement of stakeholders from the maritime transport sector.

MUTRAP III, implemented by the European Delegation to help Vietnam prepare for, carry out and follow up on WTO commitments, held two workshops in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City for maritime-sector stakeholders.


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