Confronting British Bullies: Shipping Law Reform in Australia and New Zealand

Dr Bevan Marten published "Confronting British Bullies: Shipping Law Reform in Australia and New Zealand, 1888–1907" in the July 2020 edition of the Australian journal law&history.

An image of a container transport ship.

The article examines shipping law reforms enacted in 1903 and 1904 by New Zealand and Australia, respectively, which pushed against the interests of British shipowners, who preferred to flex their commercial muscle by excluding as much liability as possible in their contracts of carriage. Spurred on by chambers of commerce cooperating across the Tasman, the colonial parliaments sought a fairer deal for their exporters by adopting regimes on bills of lading based on the United States’ Harter Act 1893.

The Australasian legislation received a hostile reception in London and was of limited success in practice, but it nonetheless set in motion a chain of events that led to a better outcome for exporting nations around the world.

Read the full article.

Dr Marten spoke to Radio New Zealand Nights about the struggle over trading terms from 120 years ago between the UK and its colonies, based on the article.