February: CIRCULAR 2A/2004


The Spanish Ministry of Development has recently approved (13th February 2004) Royal Decree 253/2004, which establishes preventive measures and oil spill response in loading / unloading / handling operations of oil in Spanish ports and costs including bunker supplies to vessels.

Spain is party to the OPRC 90 Convention, which requires compliant ports, harbours and oil handling facilities to prepare contingency plans, establish local and regional pollution response measures and to train and exercise their staff. On 23 February 2001, a National Contingency Plan on Accidental Marine Pollution was approved by the Ministry of Development.

This new regulation 253/2004 is applicable to all maritime facilities handling oil in bulk (shipyards, oil platforms, breaking up of vessels, oil residues reception terminals, bunker supply facilities, etc.),. They will have to count with their own or subcontracted means sufficient to deal with oil spills and they will also have to train and exercise their staff as described in this Royal Decree. These facilities have to elaborate in a six month term as from 14th August 2004 a contingency plan on accidental marine pollution, which plan will be approved by the competent authority, otherwise they can be sanctioned according to our Ports Law.

It should be noted that if the Directors of the port facility where loading or unloading operations of oil are being carried out doubt about the operational capacity of a vessel or about the technical capacity of her crew during these operations, they will have to advise the Harbour Master accordingly.

The Harbour Master will then be able to inspect the vessel under the procedure established in Royal Decree 91/2003 which regulates PSC inspection of 30% of foreign vessels calling to Spanish ports to tighten the control on considerably old vessels and ensure that ships comply with international standards (see our Circular of August 2003). This regulation has been strictly applied since its publication, resulting in sub-standard vessels being easily detained until the deficiencies are rectified and in Sanctioning Proceedings being possibly started against owners and guarantees of a minimum of Euros 3,050 being requested to release the vessel from detention.

Despite the fact that the Royal Decree 91/2003 regulates inspection to foreign vessels calling to Spanish ports, under this new Royal Decree 253/2004 the Harbour Master will be able to inspect any vessel, no matter her flag, if her operational capacity or her crew technical capacity is doubtful.

Royal Decree 253/2004 will come into force as from 14th August.2004.

We would therefore suggest that vessels calling to Spanish Ports check that their operational capacity as well as the technical capacity of their crew comply with the necessary requirements in respect of loading / unloading / handling operations of oil in order to avoid the Harbour Master being advised of the lack of compliance and thus, the vessel being inspected.

Should any shipowners or operators have any queries or problems related to vessel detentions or immobilisations at any Spanish Port, they should not hesitate to contact us.