Rotterdam Institute for Shipping & Transport Law

Director: Prof. dr Frank Smeele

Located in Rotterdam, the main port of Europe, the fourth busiest port in the world, and a major transport hub, it is only natural for Erasmus School of Law (ESL) to take an active interest in shipping and transport law. After all, as a leading commercial centre, Rotterdam is also a place where Courts, arbitrators and attorneys provide specialist and high-quality legal services to the shipping industry, traders, banks and underwriters.

For decades already, legal scholars working at Erasmus University and its predecessor the Nederlandsche Economische Hogeschool (NEH) have dedicated their attention to lecturing and researching shipping law and transport law and have contributed to its continuous development (see under Tradition). As a result, Erasmus School of Law is widely acknowledged to be the leading player in these fields within The Netherlands.

Now (in 2009) the board of Erasmus School of Law has decided that the time has come to give a new boost to these efforts through the founding by Erasmus School of Law of the Rotterdam Institute for Shipping and Transport Law (RISTL). RISTL aims to provide a better and more transparent structure for the various Master level courses in these fields provided by Erasmus School of Law (see under Courses). RISTL will also be instrumental in organizing seminars, colloquia, and conferences on topical subjects were possible in close collaboration with partner universities, institutes and associations both at home and abroad.

RISTL is also intended as a centre for both academic and practical research in shipping and transport law. Through its network of members and associated members, RISTL will bring together legal scholars in these fields and stimulate both junior and senior researchers from The Netherlands and abroad to contribute to the international academic debate on issues in shipping and transport law through high-quality publications both in the English and Dutch language. Finally, RISTL will prove a useful instrument in achieving closer international co-operation between Universities and Research Institutes active in the fields of shipping and transport law.

A long tradition...

Although RISTL was founded only in 2009, Erasmus University and its predecessor until 1973, the Nederlandsche Economische Hogeschool (NEH) has a decades-long tradition in Shipping and Transport Law. From 1939 onwards several renowned academic scholars in this field have lectured at the NEH and Erasmus University Rotterdam. Typically, these legal scholars have contributed in various capacities to the development of the shipping and transport law at the national and international level. Typically also these legal scholars did not confine themselves during their careers only to the academic world. As advocates, judges, arbitrators and civil servants, these scholars practised shipping and transport law, assisted in the drafting of legislation and contributed to the unification and harmonization of maritime and transport law.

The first to be mentioned is Prof. Ph.A.N. Houwing (1897-1985). He held the Chair of Professor of Private and Commercial Law at the School of Economics of the Nederlandse Economische Hogeschool from 1939-1954. In 1955 he was appointed Judge in the Hoge Raad, the Dutch Supreme Court. One of his most memorable publications is his essay on “Vervoer als Resultaatsverbintenis” (transport as an obligation de résultat) published in 1953.

In 1955 Prof. Huib Drion (1917-2004) was appointed to the Chair of Private and Commercial Law at the School of Economics of the NEH, which he held until 1959. After studies at the Institute of International Air Law of Mc Gill University at Montreal, Canada, in 1954 Huib Drion obtained his doctoral degree at Leyden University for his PhD thesis on “Limitation of liabilities in international air law”. In his famous inaugural lecture at Rotterdam on “Verzekering en Aansprakelijkheidsrecht” (Insurance and liability law), Drion emphasized the interconnection between the two subjects and the preventive effect of liability law. In 1959 Drion published Hoffmann-Drion, Onrechtmatige Daad (Tort), which became a handbook for Dutch legal practitioners. In 1969, after several years as Professor of Civil law at his Alma Mater, Leyden University, Huib Drion was called to the Hoge Raad of which he was Vice-President from 1981 to 1984.

Prof. Pieter Sanders (1912) was appointed founding Dean of the Erasmus School of Law which officially opened in 1963. After graduating from Leyden University, Pieter Sanders was admitted to the Rotterdam bar, where he specialized in commercial arbitration. In 1945 Pieter Sanders obtained his PhD cum laude from Leyden University for his doctoral thesis on De vernietiging van arbitrale vonnissen(The annulment of arbitral awards). He was one of the principal drafters of the 1958 United Nations Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (The New York Convention) and the 1976 UNCITRAL arbitration rules. Prof. Pieter Sanders has been called: "The 'father' of modern international commercial arbitration."

In 1964 Prof. Sjoerd Royer (1929) was appointed Professor of Commercial Law at the then newly founded School of Law of Erasmus University, a chair which he held until 1969. Previously, Sjoerd Royer had worked from 1953 onwards as a Rotterdam attorney in a shipping law firm. In 1959, he obtained his Doctorate Degree at Leyden University for a PhD-thesis on Hoofdzaken der vervoerdersaansprakelijkheid (Principles of Carrier’s Liability under Netherlands Maritime Law). In 1961 he was appointed Judge in the Court of Rotterdam. In 1970, Sjoerd Royer was appointed Appeal Judge at the Amsterdam Court of Appeal and in 1975 he was called to the Hoge Raad of which he was President from 1989 until 1996.

Perhaps the most active and influential legal scholar in this line-up is Prof. Henri Schadee (1910-1995). Schadee was a practising attorney and average adjuster at Rotterdam, who managed to combine his work with sitting as a part-time judge in the Court of Rotterdam and lecturing as part-time Professor of comparative maritime law both at Leyden University and Erasmus University (from 1967 to 1975). Through his work, Henri Schadee has always shown a great affinity and knowledge of maritime, transport and insurance matters. He was one of the co-founders of the Association Internationale de Dispacheurs Européens (AIDE) and equally active through the Inland Vessel Registry (IVR) association. However, Schadee’s greatest legacy is the recodification and modernisation of Dutch transport law, for which he was appointed Royal Commissioner in 1961 and which he saw enter into force in 1991 as Book 8 Verkeersmiddelen en Vervoer (Means of traffic and transport) of the New Dutch Civil Code. Thanks to Schadee, The Netherlands has one of the most modern codifications of shipping and transport law in the world.

Obviously, after the entry into force of book 8 of the Dutch Civil Code, handbooks are needed by legal practitioners and scholars. The most famous Dutch handbook in the field of private law is the Asser-series of which Eric Japikse (1929), a former Rotterdam attorney and Emeritus Professor of Comparative Maritime Law at Leyden University is the author responsible for book 8 of the Dutch Civil Code. In 2004 Part I of the Asser Series on Book 8 Dutch Civil Code was published and currently, Eric Japikse is working on Part II. Erasmus University School of Law is proud to host Eric Japikse during his work on the Asser Series.

In 1971 Prof. Jan Schultsz was appointed part-time Professor of private international law at Erasmus University School of Law. In 1973 he became full-time Professor of Commercial Law at Erasmus University and held this chair until 1980 when he returned to the Amsterdam bar and was appointed part-time Professor of Maritime Law at his Alma Mater, the University of Amsterdam. Throughout his long career as a legal scholar, Amsterdam attorney and arbitrator and Law Professor, Jan Schultsz have contributed much to the fields of conflict law and maritime law. In 1955 he obtained his doctoral degree from the University of Amsterdam for his PhD-thesis Eigendomsverkrijging bij koop van roerende goederen in het West-Europees internationaal privaatrecht (Transfer of ownership in the sale of movable goods in West European conflict law). In later years as Dutch delegate to the international committee of experts, he contributed to the 1980 Rome Convention on the law applicable to contractual obligations. As Member of the Dutch Standing Royal Commission on Private International Law, he helped draft the Dutch Act of 1993 containing some provisions of Private International Law relating to Maritime and Inland Waterway Law.

Prof. Rob Cleton (1935) succeeded Prof. Henri Schadee as lecturer in transport law at Erasmus University School of law in 1977, was appointed part-time professor of Transport Law at Erasmus University School of Law in 1983 and held this chair until 1993, when he became a member of the Raad van State (Council of State, the Dutch Supreme Court in administrative affairs). Previously, Rob Cleton had worked as a Rotterdam attorney with a shipping law firm (from 1964 to 1968). In 1969 Rob Cleton became a senior civil servant with the Ministry of Justice and head of the department of Private law legislation. As Dutch delegate to IMO’s legal committee and various diplomatic conferences, Rob Cleton has contributed considerably to the drafting of amongst others the 1974 Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea (PAL), the 1976 London Convention on Limitation of Liability of Maritime Claims (LLMC 1976), the 1978 UN Convention on Carriage of Goods by Sea (Hamburg Rules), the 1980 UN Convention on International Multimodal Transport of Goods, the 1984 Protocols to the Civil Liability for oil pollution damage Convention (CLC) and the 1989 London Salvage Convention. Among his many publications, his inaugural address about the liability of pilots (1985) and his treatises on De beperkte Aansprakelijkheid van de scheepseigenaar (The limited liability of the Shipowner) (1992 and 1998), Hulp aan schepen (Assistance to ships) (1992) and Hoofdlijnen van het Vervoerrecht (Mainlines of transport Law) (1994) are especially memorable. After a long and distinguished career as a Rotterdam attorney and arbitrator, in 1983

Prof. Rob van Delden (1925) was appointed Professor of Commercial Law at Erasmus University, a chair he held until 1991. Especially memorable among his many publications are his treatises on: Overzicht van de Handelskoop (An overview of commodity sales) (1984), Hoofdstukken Handelsrecht (Commercial law chapters), (1993 and 1993), Arbitragerecht (Arbitration) (1988 and 1992), Betalingsverkeer, documentaire krediet/documenten (Payment procedures, documentary credits/ documents) (1990 and 1999), De overeenkomsten van goederenvervoer over zee (the contracts for the carriage of goods by sea) (1992) and International handelsarbitrage (International commercial arbitration), 1996 are especially memorable.

Prof. Gert-Jan van der Ziel (1942) was appointed part-time Professor of Maritime Law at Erasmus University School of Law in 1994 and held this chair until 2004. Gertjan van der Ziel started his legal career in 1969 as a civil servant at the Department of Shipping of the Ministry of Transport. From 1977 until 1997 he was Head of Legal Affairs of Royal Nedlloyd Group N.V. at Rotterdam. Since then he is active as a legal consultant and arbitrator in Rotterdam. In various capacities and over a period of nearly fifteen years, Gert-Jan van der Ziel has contributed considerably to all stages of the CMI/Uncitral project for the modernisation of carriage of goods by sea, which resulted in the 2009 United Nations Convention on the carriage of goods wholly or partly by sea (aka as the Rotterdam Rules 2009). His extensive publications are listed on Prof. Van der Ziel personal page on this website. Gert-Jan van der Ziel is a personal member of the Comité Maritime International (CMI) and President of the Dutch Maritime and Transport Law Association.

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