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Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail

OTIF is an intergovernmental organisation dedicated to international rail transport.

The first International Convention for the International Carriage of Goods by Rail (CIM) was concluded in 1890 at the International Convention on the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail (CIM). This Convention, in accordance with the current international law, established the Administrative Union with the permanent secretariat - the Central Bureau. The 19th-century administrative alliances, such as the Central Bureau of International Carriage by Rail, the Postal Union, the Telecommunication Union and others were the institutional continuation of international diplomatic conferences. Supervision of the Central Office was carried out by the Federal Council of Switzerland.

In 1959, the supervisory functions performed by the Federal Council of Switzerland were transferred to the Administrative Committee, which consisted of representatives of some of the member States of the Organization.

During the 8th Audit Conference in 1980, the institutional provisions of the Convention were radically reformed, which led to the creation of an intergovernmental organization, modern both in its nature and structure.

In accordance with the Convention on International Carriage by Rail (COTIF) - dated May 9, 1980, which came into force on May 1, 1985, the Intergovernmental Organization for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF) was established - l'Organizzation intergouvernementale pour les transports internationaux ferroviaires (OTIF).

OTIF is a legal entity both at the level of public international law and within the framework of the national legal systems of the member states of this organization.

The main goal of OTIF is to promote, improve and facilitate, in all respects, international traffic by rail, in particular by establishing systems of uniform law in the following fields of law: contract of international carriage of passengers and goods in international through traffic by rail, including complementary carriage; contract of use of wagons as means of transport  in international rails traffic; contract of use of infrastructure in international rail traffic; carriage of dangerous goods in international rail traffic. (COTIF, Article 2, §1).

The uniform law is the system of identical legal norms in different states. Direct shipping is called transportation by one transport document (ticket - for passengers, consignment - for cargo) from the place of departure to the destination.

This uniform law can also be applied to such international direct communication, in which in addition to the railway lines, land, sea and internal waterways are used (COTIF, Article 2, §2).

OTIF is governed by three bodies:

  • The General Assembly, which is the supreme decision-making body. It is made up of representatives from all the member states.
  • The Administrative Committee, which is the body that monitors the Secretary General’s administrative and financial activities. It is made up of one third of the member states designated by the General Assembly for a period of three years. The Committee is entrusted with the control of the administrative and financial affairs of the Central Office, as well as to approve the annual work program, budget, annual activity report and annual financial report of the Organization;
  • The Revision Committee consists of representatives of the member states. The Revision Committee takes decisions on amendments to those provisions of the Uniform Rules of CIP and CIM, which allow a simplified and accelerated procedure for revision. It also reviews the proposals concerning the amendments to the COTIF proper and the CIV / CIM articles, the decision of which is only to be adopted by the General Assembly;
  • The RID Committee of Experts takes decisions on amendments to the provisions of the Regulations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (RID)
  • The Central Office for International Carriage by Rail (OCTI) works as the secretariat of the Organization.

The Organisation has its headquarters in Berne, Switzerland.

Ukraine in 1997 declared its intention to join COTIF and to join the OITF. This intention was supported by all member states. At the first stage, under the legal provisions of the COTIF, it is foreseen to subordinate a number of transit railway lines with a width of 1435 mm (border with Hungary - Chop, the state border with Slovakia - Chop - Dyakov - the state border with Romania - 112 km, the state border with Slovakia - Uzhgorod - Chop - 35 km), as well as the line Bateve - Mukacheve - 25 km.

The accession of Ukraine will come into force one month after the adoption by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the relevant law and a note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine to the Government of Switzerland.

Simultaneously with work at the state and interstate level, the application of the legal norms of COTIF requires the development and implementation of a sectoral program of activities, which in particular should include:

  • revision of the COTIF translation in Ukrainian in connection with the 5th General Assembly of the OTIF protocol on the modification of the current Convention;
  • printing of the required number of copies of the Convention;
  • development and introduction of processing technology of invoice CIM;
  • translation of legal documents concluded within the framework of the CIT, governing the operational, technical and technological, financial relations between carriers.

For the effective application of the COTIF law, training of all involved car and truck workers, financiers, lawyers, and especially border station employees is required.

Special attention should be paid on the joint work of specialists of linguists, lawyers, financiers, and railway staff in revision on the translation of COTIF into the Ukrainian language for its approval by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. The authenticity of the original and unambiguous interpretation of the legal norms of the Convention should be achieved during the translation process. Frequently, in the process of translation, there is a discrepancy between the the foreign and Ukrainian legal lexics, which requires scientific analysis, the development of a thesaurus dictionary.

Ukraine's membership in the Intergovernmental Organization for International Carriage by Rail and the experience gained in the implementation of the Convention provisions are necessary links of European integration and harmonization of Ukrainian legislation with the norms of the European Union member states.