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Can copies of the CIM consignment note be used in cross-border rail freight?

Formally speaking, the claims handling procedure requires the consignee to submit the original consignment note, or the consignor its duplicate (see Art. 43 §§ 3 and 4 CIM), to the carrier against which the claim is being made (see Art. 43 § 1 CIM). The CIT20 formal report (Appendix 20 to GTM-CIT) helps provide an evidential basis for handling the claim, and can be filed together with the original consignment note or its duplicate – see Art. 43 § 5 CIM.

Under Art. 43 § 6 CIM, however, the carrier may require the production of the consignment note in the original form in order to avoid the same claim being made multiple times against other carriers in the chain. That said, duly certified duplicates may be presented if the person entitled can demonstrate that it is impossible to produce the original documents for good reasons. This also protects the carrier as the subject of the claim.

Consequently, a carrier rejecting a claim brought by the person entitled on the grounds of Art. 43 § 6 CIM alone could be considered to be in abuse of the procedure set out in Art. 44 CIM. Domestic courts in COTIF Member States (Article 46 CIM) are increasingly permitting other means of evidence in the absence of the consignment note as per Art. 44 § 5 CIM. This trend is due to a recognition by the courts that the source of security is not exclusively and directly the documents themselves, but increasingly rather the distribution systems, for which security is an essential requirement. As such, a document such as a printout or duplicate from such a system can be considered equivalently secure to the original , e.g. by means of watermarks, barcodes, apps etc. Most recently, such increased security has also been provided by the electronic formal report CIT20a (Appendix 20a to GTM-CIT).