29 November 2021
The Multimodal Transport Act 2021 (“Act”) came into operation on 28 November 2021.
The Act seeks to facilitate Singapore’s ratification of the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Multimodal Transport later this year. The Agreement will provide a single, unified framework for the multimodal transport of goods within ASEAN, facilitating market access for Singapore logistics operators to operate in other ASEAN member states under a set of regionally aligned standards.
The Act applies to the carriage of goods via more than one transport mode by a multimodal transport operator registered with the Competent National Body established in the ASEAN member states via more than one transport mode. The carriage of goods will be under a single multimodal transport contract where the origin or destination of the goods delivery is in an ASEAN member state.
This article discusses the key provisions of the Act.
Competent National Body
The Act will put in place the legislative framework for the recognition of the Competent National Body established by each ASEAN member state to maintain a registry of multimodal transport operators (“MTOs”) (“Registry”). The Land Transport Authority (“LTA”) will be designated Singapore’s Competent National Body.
MTOs who wish to join the Registry will be assessed by LTA to determine if they have met requirements such as having insurance to cover any payment of claims, and maintaining a minimum level of assets. When satisfied, LTA will issue the MTO a registration certificate, which will be valid for one year and be renewable. The Competent National Body can also cancel the registration of MTOs if they have falsified material or contravened conditions of the certificate.
Issuance of Multimodal Transport Document
The second area of the Act relates to the Multimodal Transport Document which will serve as a common documentational framework to be issued by MTOs registered with a Competent National Body. MTOs will be able to issue this document to the parties engaging MTOs for the conveyance of the goods (“consignors”). This document will be recognised by all ASEAN member states to certify that the MTO has taken charge of the goods and will deliver them in accordance with the multimodal transport contract.
Liabilities of MTOs
The Act establishes a legal framework regarding liabilities of MTOs. Currently, when disputes occur, liability between operators and consignors will be determined based on their contract terms, common law or other legislation. With the Act, there will be minimum standards for the liability regime. For example, MTOs will be liable for the loss of, damage to, or delay in the delivery of goods when the goods are in their charge, but they will not be liable if these are due to inherent defects or caused by parties handing over the goods.
Duties and liabilities of consignors
The Act sets out the roles and responsibilities of consignors. Consignors are required to accurately inform the operators of the details of the goods that they will be carrying, including if the goods to be transported are deemed dangerous in accordance with domestic laws or international conventions. If they fail to do so, they will be liable for any losses incurred related to such goods.
The ASEAN Framework Agreement on Multimodal Transport was signed in 2005. It is one of three framework agreements concluded by ASEAN member states in support of the shared goal of a harmonised transport system within ASEAN to enhance regional connectivity and facilitate the free movement of goods, services and investment.
Singapore ratified the other two framework agreements, namely, the ASEAN Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Goods in Transit and the ASEAN Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Inter-State Transport, in 2019.