The "Transport and trade connectivity in the age of pandemics: Contactless, seamless and collaborative UN solutions" project responds to a call to action, for the immediate health response required to suppress transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), to end the pandemic; and to tackle the many social and economic dimensions of this crisis, made in the United Nations (UN) SDG report on "Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19", published in March 2020.
From the transport perspective, COVID-19 not only poses a severe global health threat, it also represents a supply and a demand shock. Different measures were undertaken by countries in Asia and the Pacific region to contain the pandemic pose operational challenges of movement of goods on both national and international level, adversely disrupting international transport connectivity and logistics supply chain network.
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented shock to the world economy and to individual commercial contractual obligations, including in trade in transportation. A lot of businesses have seen dramatic and sudden changes in demand and revenue and many businesses involved in the manufacture, distribution and transportation of so-called “non-essential” goods have been forced to temporarily close because of government-enforced lockdowns, social distancing regulations, supply chain disruption and/or a collapse in demand. Many trade and transport operators faced the situation when they were not able to duly fulfil their contractual obligations and apparently had to seek for the ways to delay and/or avoid performance of their contractual obligations and/or terminate contracts because COVID-19 has legitimately prevented them from performing their contractual obligations.
With a view to increase awareness of Government officials and transport operators in Asia and the Pacific region on the ways of addressing some of the key legal implications of COVID-19 for commercial contracts covering transport of goods and to assist shippers and consignees, particularly in developing countries in addressing some of the key commercial law implications of the COVID-19 crisis, the UNESCAP secretariat, in the frame of the above-mentioned project, conducted research and preliminary analysis of the challenges arising from the COVID-19 crisis affecting international commercial contracts, including contracts on international carriage of goods by various modes of transport, focusing particularly on land and multimodal transport.
The key findings of this research are summarized in this report outlining analyzing key legal implications of COVID-19 crisis for commercial contracts in the ESCAP region and beyond, identifying critical issues (including applicability of force-majeure clauses). The report also suggests several practical recommendations on contractual policy in the current extra-ordinary and evolving situation that could be used by transport industry stakeholders in their operations to better cope with the emerged challenges.