New Spanish Ports Act, The Wire - ITIC Ltd, February 2011
"The new Spanish Ports Act has recently been approved with the support of the majority of the members of the Congress (302 votes in favour out of 327 votes) after years of discussion between the political parties and all economic and social groups involved.
The Ports Act is a long awaited reform for a crucial sector in the Spanish economy. Spanish ports handle 85% of imports and 50% of exports, provide employment to more than 145,000 people (direct and indirect jobs), and constitutes 1.1 % of the Spanish gross domestic income.
The Ports Act is intended to make Spanish ports more competitive, efficient and eco-friendly (the Act puts a great emphasis on environmental sustainability). The Act will reduce the costs of port operations and will grant the local port authorities more autonomy in terms of tariffs by offering reductions and bonuses, which will make them more competitive on both a domestic and intermational scale.
Stevedoring services have deserved a special attention due to their importance in the daily running of the ports. Under the Act, Spanish stevedoring services are expected to become more competitive and cost-efficient.
With regard to ship agents, it should be noted that under the Act the ship agents will continue to be liable for the payment of port dues/tariffs in the event that the owner, the ship manager or the Master fail to pay them. This imposes a heavy burden on ship agents and they must ensure that they are always provided with sufficient funds in advance in order to avoid the risk of being left with outstanding disbursements accounts.
Spain is recognised as an important worldwide hub due to its unique and strategic geographical location. The new Act comes at a crucial time when the financial crisis is affecting dramatically all sectors of the economy and, hence, the new legal framework is expected to become an important milestone for the Spanish port sector.
Our thanks go to Carlos Perez, Partner at PEREZ ALBORS & CO Maritime and Commercial Lawyers."