Transport and forwarding law: basics for transport & logistics

Transportation and forwarding law law firm

Transport and forwarding law is a complex and wide-ranging area of law that deals with the legal aspects of the national and international transportation of goods and people.

In this blog post, we will highlight transportation and forwarding law in all its facets, including the most important laws and regulations that apply to transportation companies and freight forwarders. We will also look at recent court rulings to give you a better understanding of the legal framework in civil law.

Table of contents

  • Basics of transportation and forwarding law
  • Legal basis for road transportation
  • Legal basis for rail transportation
  • Legal basis for air transportation
  • Legal basis for sea transportation
  • Liability and insurance in transportation law
  • Legal basis for logistics
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Basics of transportation and forwarding law

Transport and forwarding law is part of transport law and comprises the legal regulations that apply to transport companies and freight forwarders. It relates to the transportation of goods and people, both nationally and internationally, and regulates the rights and obligations of the parties involved in these transactions. Some of the most important laws and regulations in transportation and forwarding law are

  1. German Commercial Code (HGB)
  2. freight law
  3. Forwarding law
  4. warehousing law
  5. Convention on the International Carriage of Goods by Road (CMR)
  6. Warsaw Convention on Air Transport
  7. Montreal Convention on Air Transport
  8. Hague Rules for maritime transport
  9. Hague-Visby Rules for Maritime Transport
  10. Hamburg Rules for Maritime Transport

Legal basis for road transport

Road transport is one of the most important modes of transport, both for national and international freight traffic. The legal regulations for road transport are laid down in various laws and ordinances, including

  • Road Traffic Act (StVG)
  • Road Traffic Regulations (StVO)
  • Road Traffic Licensing Regulations (StVZO)
  • Convention concerning the International Carriage of Goods by Road (CMR)

The CMR is an international convention that regulates the liability, rights and obligations of carriers and consignors in cross-border road haulage. It applies to all contracts for the road transportation of goods if the place of departure and the place of destination are in different countries, at least one of which is a contracting state to the CMR.

Legal basis for rail transport

Rail transport is another important mode of transport, especially for bulk goods traffic and the transportation of hazardous goods. The legal regulations for rail transportation are laid down in various national and international laws and regulations, including

  1. General Railway Act (AEG)
  2. Railroad Construction and Operating Regulations (EBO)
  3. Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF)
  4. Uniform Rules concerning the Contract of International Carriage of Goods by Rail (CIM)

COTIF is an international convention that defines the legal framework for international rail traffic. The Convention contains various Appendices, including the Uniform Rules concerning the Contract of International Carriage of Goods by Rail (CIM), which regulate the rights and obligations of carriers and consignors in international rail freight traffic.

Legal basis for air transport

Air transport is an important mode of transport for the international movement of passengers and goods. The legal regulations for air transportation are laid down in various national and international laws and regulations, including

  • Air Traffic Act (LuftVG)
  • Air Traffic Regulations (LuftVO)
  • Warsaw Convention on Air Transport
  • Montreal Convention on Air Transport

The Warsaw Convention and the Montreal Convention are international agreements that regulate the liability, rights and obligations of air carriers and consignors in international air transport. While the Warsaw Convention dates back to 1929, the Montreal Convention was adopted in 1999 and modernizes many of the provisions of the Warsaw Convention, particularly with regard to the limits of liability for damage to passengers, baggage and goods.

Legal basis for maritime transportation

Maritime transportation is the most important mode of transport for the international movement of goods and plays a crucial role in global trade. The legal regulations for maritime transportation are laid down in various national and international laws and regulations, including

  1. Maritime trade law (part of the HGB)
  2. Hague Rules for maritime transportation
  3. Hague-Visby Rules for Maritime Transportation
  4. Hamburg Rules for Maritime Transport
  5. Rotterdam Rules for Maritime Transport (not yet in force)

The Hague Rules, the Hague-Visby Rules and the Hamburg Rules are international conventions that regulate the liability and the rights and obligations of sea carriers and shippers in international maritime transport. The various conventions are applicable to different countries, depending on the respective contracting states. The Rotterdam Rules are a more recent convention that provides for a more comprehensive regulation of international maritime transport, but it has not yet entered into force as a sufficient number of contracting states are still missing.

Liability and insurance in transport law

Liability and insurance are central aspects of transport and forwarding law. The liability of transport companies and freight forwarders for damage to transported goods or persons is regulated differently in the various modes of transport. In general, carriers and freight forwarders are liable for loss, damage or delay unless they can prove that they took all necessary measures to avoid the damage. The limits of liability vary depending on the mode of transport and the applicable international conventions.

To cover their liability, transportation companies and freight forwarders usually take out insurance policies, such as carrier’s liability insurance, freight forwarder’s liability insurance or transport insurance. These insurance policies cover the company’s liability for damage to the transported goods or persons up to the liability limits specified in the policies.

Legal basis for logistics

Logistics is an integral part of the transport industry and includes the planning, organization, control and execution of transports, as well as the storage and distribution of goods. The legal regulations for logistics activities are set out in various laws and ordinances, including

  • German Commercial Code (HGB)
  • Forwarding law
  • warehousing law
  • customs law
  • Dangerous goods law

Freight forwarders and logistics companies must comply with the legal requirements and regulations relating to the organization and execution of transports, the storage of goods, customs clearance and the transport of dangerous goods.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Below you will find some frequently asked questions about transportation and forwarding law and their answers:

  1. How does transportation law differ from freight forwarding law?
    Transport law deals with the legal regulations relating to the actual transport of goods and people, while freight forwarding law concerns the regulations relating to the organization and execution of transports by freight forwarders. Freight forwarders are companies that organize transports on behalf of their customers, but do not generally act as carriers themselves.
  2. What liability limits apply to the different modes of transport?
    The limits of liability vary depending on the mode of transport and the applicable international conventions. For example, liability limits of 8.33 special drawing rights (SDR) per kilogram apply to international road transport in accordance with the CMR. In international air transport, liability limits of 1,131 SDRs per passenger for personal injury and 19 SDRs per kilogram for damage to goods apply under the Montreal Convention.
  3. How are the rights and obligations of consignors and consignees regulated in transport law?
    The rights and obligations of consignors and consignees in transport law are set out in the various laws and regulations for the respective modes of transport and in the applicable international conventions. In general, shippers are responsible for correctly declaring the goods, providing the required documents and paying the freight, while consignees are responsible for accepting the goods and paying duties and taxes. Both parties can claim damages from the carrier or freight forwarder if the transported goods are lost, damaged or arrive late.
  4. What role do the various international conventions play in transport law?
    The various international conventions in transport law define the legal framework and regulations for the cross-border transportation of goods and passengers. In particular, they regulate the liability of carriers and freight forwarders, the rights and obligations of senders and recipients and the jurisdiction of the courts in the event of disputes. The applicable conventions vary depending on the mode of transport and the countries involved.
  5. How can transport companies cover their liability?
    Transport companies can cover their liability by taking out insurance, such as carrier’s liability insurance, forwarder’s liability insurance or transport insurance. These insurance policies cover the company’s liability for damage to the transported goods or persons up to the liability limits specified in the policies.
  6. What do freight forwarders and logistics companies need to bear in mind with regard to customs and dangerous goods legislation?
    Freight forwarders and logistics companies must comply with the legal requirements and regulations relating to customs clearance and the transport of dangerous goods when organizing and carrying out transports. This may include compliance with customs regulations, the preparation of customs documents, the correct classification of dangerous goods, compliance with packaging and labeling regulations and the training of personnel in dangerous goods regulations.

Conclusion

Transport and forwarding law is a complex and wide-ranging area of law that regulates the legal aspects of the national and international transportation of goods and people. Knowledge of the legal principles, applicable international conventions and current case law is crucial for transport companies, freight forwarders, consignors and consignees in order to understand their rights and obligations and minimize legal risks.

This blog post is intended to serve as an introduction to the various aspects of transportation and forwarding law and to help you gain a better understanding of this important area of law.

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Arthur Wilms | Lawyer | Associate

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