August: CIRCULAR 3A/2011

Amendments to the spanish ports and merchant marine law.

Spanish Laws 27/1992 and 48/2003 which regulate mostly all important matters regarding maritime traffic in Spain, were modified by Law 33/2010. The modifications refer to very diverse issues such as registration and flagging of pleasure ships, pilotage regime and civil liability of the pilot, sinking of ships within port area, port tariffs, costs for the issue of mandatory shipping documents, infringements against Spanish Port law and others.

We will highlight the amendments that could affect Ship Owners / Managers / Charterers: 


Modifications related to severe infringements concerning maritime safety:

  1. Article 115.2.h: exceeding watch time limits and on board crewmembers without the required certificates.
  2. Article 115.2.k: Violation of statutory rules about inspections and certificates of ships and its elements, and refusing or impeding ship inspections and failure to cooperate with inspectors when so requested. This is related to the Paris MoU Inspections.
  3. Article 115.2.n: The non–compliance by Ship Owners, Masters or any other crewmember, of the maritime safety rules.
  4.  Article 115.2.ñ: Not informing of any maritime incident or accident, hindering investigations carried out by the National Commission of Investigation of Maritime Casualties and Accidents, as well as the simulation, concealment, alteration or destruction of data, registers, records, materials, information and documents relevant to the above Commission.

Amendments related to severe infringements concerning maritime traffic:

  1. Article 115.3.b: Navigating without the name, IMO number and inscription number visual when required.
  2. Article 115.3.o: Navigating without signals which allow the finding and permanent visualization of the ship, craft or device used for transportation, fishing or pleasure.
  3. Article 115.3.p: Navigating without having obtained the navigation licence or documents that prove the ship`s nationality
  4. Article 115.3.q: Navigation without being duly registered or with expired certificates.

Amendments related to severe infringements concerning maritime pollution:

The articles ruling the infringements related to the maritime pollution produced by ships within the areas where Spain has jurisdiction, were commonly argued as in some cases the “pollution” had not actually been produced. It has now been included as a new infringement any action or omission, not described in previous paragraphs that presents a potential risk to produce the pollution of the marine environment.


Article 107 of Spanish Port Law that ruled the sinking of ships has been largely modified. When a ship or its cargo has risks of sinking or to detriment the port activities or is a danger to persons or environment, the Port Authorities can proceed to take the necessary measures, following a report from the Harbour Master:

-       First step would be to require the Ship Owner / Manager / ship agent to have the ship leave the port, or repair the deficiencies or adopt preventive measures within a short time.

-       If these actions are not carried out, the Port Authority is authorized to unload the cargo, move the ship, sell it in public auction or even sink it, all being for the Ship Owners’ / Managers’ or Ship Agents’ account.

-       The Port Authorities are allowed – due to urgent reasons- even before the term specified, to order the adoption or adopt measures such as the establishment of signs, illumination (or enlightenment) or any other that can reduce or avoid the real or potential danger, the costs being for Ship Owners’ / Managers’ / Ship agents’ or insurance company’s account.

-       In order to cover the costs for the removal of the ship, the Port Authority can use the ship’s cargo and bunkers. If the costs incurred are not covered by the Ship Owner, the Port Authority can proceed to the sale of the wrecks deducting the costs incurred from the sales proceeds.

-       When the ship is out of the Port waters, the competent authority will be the Harbour Master.