Moving into a new legal regime for global rail freight
For several decades, there has been enormous potential in door-to-door rail freight transportation between Europe and Asia, but there is still a lot to be realised. Erik Evtimov, Deputy Secretary General of the International Rail Transport Committee (CIT), explores the challenges to overcome and how the creation of a new regime and transport documents can significantly contribute to increased rail freight traffic growth.
East-West and West-East rail freight traffic must cross an invisible legal border due to the existence of two different legal regimes. Europe applies the CIM Uniform Rules1 of COTIF (the Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail), while Russia, China and further Asian countries apply the Agreement on International Goods Transport by Rail2 (SMGS). The existence of this dual legal regime produces legal insecurity and leads to interruption of freight traffic movement, causing delays, additional costs and administrative burdens for the rail freight carriers. Up to 2006, all rail freight consignments between Europe and Asia were re-consigned as they passed from the CIM to the SMGS. This re-consignment was time-consuming and incurred additional expenses with no value added and sometimes led to incorrect data being entered on documents.
In 2006 the Common CIM/SMGS Consignment Note was created by the CIT, forming an essential part of the joint CIT/OSJD project on the legal interoperability of the CIM and the SMGS. The Common CIM/SMGS Consignment Note significantly simplifies the transition procedure at the reconsignment points and is based on the United Nations Layout Key for trade documents. The start of the ‘Legal Interoperability CIM/SMGS’ project dates to the 2003 conference on International Rail Transport Law, where the participants clearly expressed their aim to make available a common consignment note as evidence of the transport contract for goods which can be used through transport, and which is sufficient for modern requirements of customs. In 2004 the CIT organised the aforementioned project together with strong support from the OSJD (the Organisation for Cooperation of Railways).