Brussels Convention Case

CourtCourt of Appeal of Hamburg (Germany)
Docket NumberCase No. 209
Date29 a 1932
Germany, Court of Appeal of Hamburg.
Case No. 209
Brussels Convention Case.

Treaties — Interpretation of — Preparatory Work — Article 10 of the Brussels Convention of September 1910 concerning Collisions between Vessels.

The Facts.—A ship owned by a German shipping company collided in German waters with another vessel; several ships were to blame, among them that belonging to the defendants. The Court below held that, in view of the wording of Article 102 of the Brussels Convention, all the defendants were jointly and severally liable. The defendants contended that, according to the intention of the parties to the Convention, which was not expressed in the Convention as adopted but which was referred to during the negotiations preceding it, they were only liable severally.

Held: that the appeal must be dismissed. The Court said: “The defendants argue that international conventions, as opposed to statutes, should not be construed by merely looking at the words of the convention, but by taking into account the intention of the contracting parties, even if that intention cannot be gathered from the actual words. This proposition is open to doubt as a general principle of international or municipal law of contract. In any event, it is obviously wrong in a case

like the present one. What happened was this: after negotiations extending over many years, an international convention acquired the form of a statute. It had to be ratified subsequently by numerous States which had contributed in an unequal degree to the actual drafting. It remains uncertain which declarations of whose representatives shall obtain for which States; this is all the more so as the systems of law of the States in question may approach the problems involved from different angles. The defendants rely on Oppenheim, International Law, Vol. I, p. 702 [who refers to] ‘… intentions of all the parties as unanimously declared …’...

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