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Carriage of dangerous goods by rail: what legal issues arise?

The international carriage of dangerous goods by rail on the territory of the COTIF Contracting States is governed by the Regulation concerning the international Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail (RID - Appendix C to COTIF - Article 1 § 1). Dangerous goods barred from carriage under the RID may not be accepted for international carriage (Article 1 § 2 RID). The presence of dangerous goods is to be indicated in box 23 of the CIM consignment note - see Article 7 CIM in connection with the CIT “CIM Consignment Note” Manual (GLV-CIM).

This provision is analogous to the examples of CMR Article 22 para 2 and Article 13 of the Hamburg Rules. The Rotterdam Rules provide for a shift in liability if the shipper has not informed the carrier of the dangerous nature of the goods (see Article 32 of the Rotterdam Rules).

If the consignor has omitted the information stipulated by the RID, the carrier may unload or destroy the goods or render them harmless, as circumstances require, with no obligation to compensate the consignor to the extent that the carrier was not made aware of the dangerous nature of the goods upon accepting them for carriage. Article 9 CIM governs the consequences in transport law if the consignor has failed to make the entries prescribed by RID for the international carriage of dangerous goods by rail.

Unlike for the international carriage of dangerous goods, COTIF contains no specific provisions for the international carriage of waste. As such, the law on waste shipments - other than waste classified as dangerous goods on the basis of the RID - is to be considered lex specialis.