Terminal operators play an increasingly important role in the international carriage of goods by sea. The Explanatory Note to the (unsuccessful) 1991 UN Convention on the Liability of Operators of Transport Terminals in International Trade 1 defi ned terminal operators as follows:
Terminal operators, therefore, provide services in connection with carriage by sea but do not perform the carriage. At the start of the carriage they will perform services before and during loading of the goods onto the carrying vessel. At the end of the carriage they will perform services in discharging the goods and in the period between discharge and delivery of the goods. Some of these services – e.g. loading and discharging - will fall within the “tackle to tackle” period during which the Hague-Visby Rules have the force of law in relation to those bills of lading specifi ed in Article X. Some of these services – such as storage of the goods prior to loading and after discharge – will fall outside that period. The carrier may, or may not, remain contractually responsible during such period, depending on the nature of the contract of carriage contained in or evidenced by the bill of lading, or sea waybill, as the case may be. If not contractually responsible, the carrier may remain liable as bailee – as is the case regarding the period between completion of discharge and delivery of the cargo. It is likely that the contractual document will contain wide exceptions protecting the carrier in the event of loss or damage occurring in such periods. I have deliberately used the plural in referring to “terminal operators”. More than one party may incur obligations in respect to cargo as regards the services before loading and after discharge. An example is provided by The Rigoletto . 2 Cars were stolen from a
compound at Southampton docks where they were being stored prior to shipment. Lotus, the owners of the cars, sued both the stevedoring company, SCH, and ABP, the owner and operator of the compound. Both were held liable.