January: CIRCULAR 1A/2002


The Spanish Ports and Merchant Marine Law 27/1992 establishes that the Ministry of Transportation (Ministerio de Fomento) is the competent Authority to know about Spanish Ports and the Merchant Marine as well as its regulation. Within the Ministry of Transportation the General Directorate of the Merchant Marine is the authority assuming and performing all the competence for the Merchant Marine; the public entity State Ports (Puertos del Estado) is responsible for the ports management. Below you will find scheme of the organisation of the Spanish Ports Authorities:




  • State Ports (Puertos del Estado): Public entity, based in Madrid, subordinated under the Ministry of Transportation responsible for the global management of the Port Authorities, assuming functions such as: establishment of the guidelines and objectives of the ports management; establishment of the financial guidelines; supervision, control and co-ordination of all the Port Authorities activities.

It is the competent authority to propose to the Ministry of Transportation the sanctions up to two hundred million pesetas. For severe infractions above 200,000,000 ptas. the Ministry of Transportation will be the competent authority to establish the sanction.

  • Port Authority: Public entity responsible for the management of the port activities, assuming all the competencies related to the management of the port services such as mooring, pilotage, berthing and towage. They assume also the competences addressed to the ordination of the port (i.e.: port tariffs, port development, port security,…). There are 26 Port Authorities in Spain.

It is the competent authority to establish sanctions for small infractions related to the use of the port and the activities developed in that port up to Ptas. 10,000,000. Also competent to establish sanctions for severe infractions up to Ptas. 100,000,000.


  • General Directorate of the Merchant Marine: Based in Madrid. The main functions are general disposition of the maritime navigation and of the Spanish merchant fleet; disposition and performance of the inspections and technique controls, radioelectrical controls, safety and pollution prevention controls; granting concessions and authorisations of maritime services and functions related to tariff regimes. The management of these functions are carried out by the different Deputy Directorate offices and through the Harbour Master Office in each port.

The General Directorate of the Merchant Marine is entitled to establish the sanctions for severe and very severe infractions related with its competencies, amounting up to two hundred million pesetas.

  • Harbour Master Offices: The General Directorate of the Merchant Marine, in each port with a relevant maritime activity or where there is a need for maritime security, has established a Harbour Master Office. There are 29 Harbour Master offices in Spain and their main functions are:
    • Maritime Inspection such as: inspecting shipbuilding and maintenance; operative inspection; maritime radio inspection.
    • Maritime Safety and Pollution such as: control of the maritime trade and the maritime navigation; cleaning measures to prevent pollution.
    • Vessels’ Clearance, Registry, Sportive navigation and general matters such as: clearance of merchant vessels and fishing boats; flag registry and registry of new shipbuilding; sportive navigation and general matters.

The Harbour Master is entitled to establish sanctions for infractions against the maritime safety, ordination of the maritime traffic or marine pollution up to Ptas. 10,000,000.

SASEMAR (Spanish Maritime Salvage Agency): It is the Spanish State Company based in Madrid responsible for the services of search, rescue, salvage and prevention and fight against pollution. The National Plan of Salvage Services, which is obviously needed, is still under development. There are presently fifteen Salvage co-ordination centres along the Spanish Coast.

It is important to note that the Spanish Government is preparing a new Spanish Ports law, which will modify the ports financial regime, the use of the public domain, the rendering of the services and the sanctioning proceedings and sanctions, and which may enter into force in year 2002.