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Transshipment in transportation: legal aspects and practical considerations

Transshipment is a crucial part of the modern logistics chain. This process, in which goods are transhipped from one means of transport to another, can involve considerable legal complexities. In this article, we will analyze some of the legal aspects of transshipment on the transportation industry, paying particular attention to liability, contractual obligations and the relevant laws and regulations.

Definition and scope of transshipment

Transshipment refers to the physical movement of goods between different modes of transportation, such as ship to truck, train to ship, or plane to train. This process is essential to the efficient functioning of supply chains, especially in the context of intermodal and multimodal transport.

Legal framework

International treaties

In international transport, several conventions govern the rights and obligations of parties involved. Some of the most important treaties are:

  • Geneva Convention (CMR): This convention governs the international carriage of goods by road. Article 17 CMR deals with the carrier’s liability for loss of or damage to the goods.
  • The Montreal Convention: This Convention regulates the international carriage of goods by air. Article 18 provides for the carrier’s liability for damage during air transportation, including transshipment operations.
  • The Hague-Visby Rules: These rules apply (often) to the carriage of goods by sea and govern, among other things, the carrier’s liability for loss of or damage to cargo.

National legislation

In addition to international treaties, national laws play a crucial role. In the Netherlands, the provisions governing the carriage of goods are contained in Book 8 of the Civil Code. Book 8 contains specific provisions on the liability of the carrier and the shipper for different modes of transport. On multimodal transport, Book 8 says, in article 41 thereof, “In the case of a contract of combined carriage of goods (nowadays we call it multimodal), for each part of the carriage the rules of law applicable to that part shall apply.”

Transshipment liability

Liability for damage or loss during transshipment can vary depending on the applicable legal regime. Usually, liability lies with the carrier unless it can prove that the damage was caused by an external factor beyond its control, such as force majeure or faulty packaging by the shipper.

Contractual arrangements

It is very important that parties make clear contractual arrangements regarding responsibility during transshipment. In many cases, transportation agreements contain specific clauses governing liability during the transshipment period. Such clauses should be carefully drafted to avoid disputes.


Obtaining adequate insurance is essential to mitigate the financial risks of damage or loss during transshipment. Both the carrier and the shipper would do well to ensure comprehensive transportation insurance that provides coverage for all stages of transportation, including transshipment.

Practical considerations


Thorough documentation and records are crucial to avoid legal problems during transshipment. This includes bills of lading, receipts and detailed cargo lists. Such documents serve as evidence in case of damage claims.

Communication and coordination

Effective communication and coordination among all parties involved are vital for smooth transshipment. This includes timely sharing of information on arrival times, transshipment locations and any cargo details.

Technological solutions

Modern technologies, such as tracking and tracing systems, can help improve the monitoring of cargo during transshipment. These systems provide real-time information on the location and status of cargo, contributing to greater control and transparency.


Transshipment in the transport world involves complex legal issues that require thorough knowledge of international conventions, national legislation and contractual arrangements. By making clear contractual arrangements, taking out adequate insurance and using modern technologies, parties can minimize risks during transshipment and contribute to an efficient and safe logistics chain.


Where does transshipment typically take place?

Transshipment typically involves transferring goods from one mode of transportation to another. This can take many forms, but usually occurs at a transshipment site. A transshipment site can be a port terminal, an airport terminal, a depot, a container terminal, a train station or similar places.

What types of transshipment are there?

There are several types of transshipment, including:

  • Direct transshipment: Goods are transferred directly from one means of transportation to another without intermediate storage.
  • Indirect transshipment: Goods are temporarily stored in a storage facility before being transferred to another means of transportation.

What is the transshipment process, what steps are involved?

The transshipment process involves the physical transfer of goods from one means of transportation to another. The steps are:

  • Receipt of goods at the transshipment facility.
  • Inspection and documentation of goods.
  • Moving the goods to the new means of transportation.
  • Confirmation and documentation of skipping.
  • Departure of the transport vehicle with the transshipped goods.

How often does damage or loss of goods occur during transshipment and what are the most common causes?

The frequency of damage or loss varies, but common causes are:

  • Careless handling of goods.
  • Improper packaging.
  • Theft.
  • Contingencies.

More information

Do you have any questions or are you looking for a lawyer specialized in transshipment? Please contact one of our colleagues of Trade, Industry and Logistics.

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