The Hague Visby Rules after defining key terms such as 'carrier" (Art.1a), proceeded to define 'contract of carriage' as contract for shipment of goods "covered by a bill of lading or any similar document of title" (Art.1b). It further defined 'carriage of goods' as that period commencing "from the time when the goods are loaded on to the time they are discharged from the ship" (Art.1e). It also limits its coverage only to outgoing shipments from UK and excludes imported or ingoing goods and limits the liabilities of the common carrier. To give muscles and teeth to the provisions of the Hague Visby Rules, the UK Carriage of Goods By Sea Act of 1971 amended in 1992 was enacted (Laryea 2002,p.56).
In contrast to the Hague Visby Rules, the Hamburg Rules which was an offshoot of the 1978 UN Convention On The Carriage of Goods By Sea (Yiannopoulos 1995,p.8), widened the liabilities and responsibilities of the carrier over the shipped goods and included in its ambit all carriage of goods whether exports or imports (Gillies & Moens 1998,p.183) as well as contracts for the carriage of goods whether evidenced or not by a bill of lading (Art.2). It also exonerates
Of common importance to both the Hague Visby Rules and the Hamburg Rules is the extreme importance accorded to a bill of lading. Both emphasise that the bill of lading is the contract between the parties which is enforceable before the courts of law. It is the written acknowledgement of receipt of goods accompanied with the written stipulation that such goods shall be transported by the carrier, on behalf of the shipper, to a consignee at a designated place. A bill of lading must state the "condition of the goods,the date of receipt and or shipment, the leading marks necessary for identification of the goods, the quantity of the goods, the number of packages or pieces, or weight of the goods" (Laryea 2002,p.65). It is important because its contents are deemed as containing all that the parties have agreed and therefore, such bill of lading cannot be varied by parol evidence unless fraud, mistake or ambiguity is adduced. Thus, the carrier may adduce evidence that in fact, the goods had already been damaged at the time of shipment and that shipper is thus guilty of fraud by misdeclaration (The Tromp,1921). It is even more important because it empowers the consignee or buyer to obtain delivery from the carrier at destination after presentation of the original bill which is transmitted ahead. (This 'shipped bill of lading' shall be discussed in the latter part of this paper). Another of its importance is that it enables the buyer to sell the goods to a third party while the goods are in transit (Gillies & Moens 1998,p.125) or to transfer