TT Talk - Facilitating combined air/sea supply chains


The combination of air and sea movements in certain supply chains has been in existence for a number of years. However, a developing demand for combined air and sea waybills, particularly in Hong Kong, appears to be the result of a mismatch between the superior air transport infrastructure in Hong Kong and the growth of sea transport in the rest of China. There is, therefore, an increasing need to combine international air carriage to and from Hong Kong with land and sea carriage between Hong Kong and the rest of China.

There are certain residual legal dangers in seeking to ‘stitch together’ the differing modal regimes. If the shipper wishes the transport document to be negotiable, this may not sit conveniently with the essential non-negotiable nature of an air waybill. The rules on delivery also differ, although the Club would recommend, as a matter of practice, that logistics and transport operators insist on production of the original document on delivery.

On a more technical level, the international conventions relating to air and sea carriage define ‘carrier’ and ‘carriage’ differently. The conventions differ in other obvious ways, notably time bars (one year for sea under Hague/Hague-Visby Rules; two years for air under Warsaw/Montreal Conventions). 

This makes it important to clarify the stage of the carriage at which the loss occurs, and to be clear in the contractual conditions about what happens if the stage cannot be identified.

We have come across a number of air/sea waybills which may not completely meet the conflicting requirements of this type of intermodal carriage. As a result, the TT Club has designed an Air/Sea Waybill (known as the Series 700), which we recommend to Members involved in this type of operation. This is available to be downloaded by registered Members from ‘My TT Club’ section of our website or alternatively you may ask your usual contact for a copy.

There remain some potential legal problems and Members wishing to use the Series 700 are advised to consult their lawyers to ensure that it is suitable for their operational and jurisdictional requirements.

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