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Posted to Maritime Musings (by on November 2, 2012

An ancient maritime trading center in the Baltic

 Visby is the historic city on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Sweden.  It was a center for maritime trade throughout the Baltic as early as 900 A.D. and became sufficiently rich and important to erect defensive walls around the city in the twelfth century.  In the late fourteenth century, it was plundered by the Victual Brothers, a large pirate band that controlled Baltic trade for a number of years until put down by the combined arms of various regional powers, including the Hanseatic League, of which Visby was a member.  King Eric of Pomerania gained possession of Visby in 1411 and gradually turned it into a pirates’ nest for the second time.  Visby was then expelled from the Hanseatic League.  In 1525, it got into a dispute with Lübeck, a powerful maritime city-state and one of the principal members of the Hanseatic League.  Forces from Lübeck overran and virtually destroyed Visby.  Visby has only partially recovered from all the conflict.  As a result, the city has many old buildings and historic ruins.  Maritime trade is largely a thing of the past, but has been replaced by tourism.  When the International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law relating to Bills of Lading, 1924 (commonly called the Hague Rules) became somewhat outdated, the Comité Maritime International (CMI) met in Stockholm in 1963 to draft a protocol.  At the completion of the conference, the CMI adjourned briefly to Visby to endorse the document and enjoy the historic surroundings.  When the Hague Rules were formally amended in 1968, the new document became known as the Hague-Visby Rules.


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