November 2014 · New Spanish Shipping Act

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New Spanish Shipping Act, The Wire - ITIC Ltd, London, November 2014
Carlos Perez, a Partner at Perez Albors & Co, looks at the impact that the much-anticipated introduction of the new Spanish Shipping Act is expected to have on the liabilities of ship agents and ship managers. We are most grateful to Carlos for his contribution.

"The new Spanish Shipping Act has recently been approved with the support of the majority of the members of the Parliament and will enter into force on 25 September 2014. Indeed, after years of discussions between all political parties under several governments, the Act has finally been passed by the Parliament with a wide consensus. This will hopefully provide the shipping sector with a stable and safe legal framework.

The Act is a long-awaited reform for a key sector in the Spanish economy, and aims to update and codify Spanish shipping law, as well as to overcome the existing contradictions between the International Conventions in force in Spain and Spanish domestic law.

The new Act expressly repeals, among other provisions, Book III and other articles of the Spanish

Commercial Code, the 1893 Ship Mortgage Act, the 1949 Carriage of Goods by Sea Act and the 60/1962 Salvage Act (except for the provisions of Title II, which will continue in force as regulations).

Ship agents deserve special attention under the new legal framework set by the Act as follows:
• Ship agents will not be liable vis-à-vis the cargo receivers for loss or damage to the cargo, nor for delay in its delivery, although they will of course remain liable to their shipowner or ship operator principals for damage caused by their own negligence.
• However, when signing bills of lading following instructions from their Principals, ship agents will have to state the name and address of the latter. Otherwise, ship agents will be jointly and severally liable together with the shipowner or the ship operator, as the case may be.
• In addition, it should be noted that ship agents will have the duty to receive any claims and protests for loss or damage to the goods made by the cargo receivers, all of which they must notify to the shipowner or the ship operator immediately.
• The Act further provides that ship agents will be liable in the same way as freight forwarders or port operators (for cargo handling) when they act as such and not as ship agents only. 

Ship managers should also note that the Act provides that, when dealing with third parties, the managers must state that they act for and on behalf of the ship owners and provide the identity and address of the latter in any contracts they enter into. If the managers do not do so, they will be considered jointly and severally liable with the owners towards those third parties.

Spain is recognised as an important worldwide shipping centre due to its unique and strategic geographical location. The new Act comes at a crucial time when the structural reforms and austerity measures are bearing fruit and, hence, the new legal framework is expected to become an important milestone for the Spanish shipping sector".