A summary of some general criticisms of the UNCITRAL Convention (the Rotterdam Rules)
William Tetley, CM, QC
Professor of Law, McGill University
The following summary of some general criticisms to the UNCITRAL Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea (hereafter the Rotterdam Rules) is dedicated to Professor David Attard, who understands legislative drafting and the advantages of precision and concision.
(a) The final drafting of the Rotterdam Rules was apparently not by a single person, but by a very large committee with many commentators. A single drafter provides a simpler and more coherent product. For example, see the superb five maritime law statutes of France written alone by the dogmatic, but brilliant, René Rodière.
(b) The style of drafting in general is common law and yet there is an absence in many cases of the basic and most important characteristic of common law drafting – ‘precision’.
Civil law style of drafting is also present to some extent and yet there is an absence in many cases of the basic and most important characteristic of civil law drafting – ‘concision’.
The common law is usually much more detailed in its prescriptions than the civil law.1 Civil law codes and statutes are concise (le style français), while common law statutes are precise (le style anglais).2 Common law statutes – unlike their civilian counterparts – provide detailed definitions, and each
1 See W. Tetley, ‘Mixed jurisdictions: common law vs civil law (codified and uncodified (part I)’, Uniform Law Review 4, 1999, pp. 591–619, p. 597; available on-line at: www.unidroit.org/english/publications/review/articles/1999–3.htm. See also W. Tetley, International Maritime and Admiralty Law (Quebec: Éditions Yvon Blais, 2002), pp. 7–8.
2 See L. P. Pigeon, Rédaction et interprétation des lois (Québec: Gouvernement du Québec, 1986), 3rd edn, p. 19. Montesquieu, in his celebrated De l’Esprit des Lois (Book XXIX, Ch. 16), gives as his first and foremost admonishment on composing laws that: ‘The style ought to be concise’. See The Spirit of Laws, A compendium of the first English edition with an introduction by D. W. Carrithers (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), p. 376.