Spain Ratifies International Maritime Conventions

Tomás Fernández-Quirós Tuñón.

04/05/2005 International Law Office

Spain recently ratified a number of international maritime conventions, withdrawing from earlier corresponding international conventions to which it was a signatory (for further details please see "Convention on Maritime Liens and Mortgages Enters into Force").

Spain ratified the 1993 Geneva Convention on Maritime Liens and Mortgages, which entered into force in September 2004, and will withdraw from the 1926 Brussels Convention on the Unification of Rules Relating to Maritime Liens and Mortgages on May 27 2005.

More recently, Spain ratified the 1996 Protocol to the 1976 London Convention on the Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, which entered into force in Spain on April 10 2005. In the instrument of accession of December 1 2004, deposited January 10 2005, Spain took the opportunity to make certain qualifications.

Pursuant to Article 15(2)b of the 1976 convention, Spain has declared that Spanish law provisions will regulate the limitation of liability to be applied to ships of less than 300 tons. Consequently, it has been provided that the limitation of liability for such ships will be half the liability limitation applicable to a ship of 2,000 tons, as calculated under Articles 6(1)a and 6(1)b of the 1976 convention.

In addition, and in accordance with Article 18(1) of the 1976 convention as amended by the 1996 protocol, Spain reserved the right to exclude the application of Articles 2(1)d and 2(1)e. Therefore, in Spain, the 1976 convention does not apply to: (i) claims for the raising, removal, destruction or rendering harmless of a ship which has sunk, been wrecked, stranded or abandoned, as well as for anything that is or was on board (Article 2(1)d); and (b) claims for the removal, destruction or rendering harmless of the ship's cargo (Article 2(1)e).

The Spanish legislature expressly declared that these claims will not be subject to liability limitation but will be subject to the provisions of domestic law, specifically Article 107 of the State Ports and Merchant Navy Act (27/1992).

Furthermore, Spain ratified the 1989 London International Convention on Salvage. This follows Spain's recent notice of withdrawal, with effect from January 19 2006, from the 1910 Brussels Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law Relating to Assistance and Salvage at Sea. The instrument of ratification of January 14 2005 (published in the Spanish Official Gazette on March 8 2005) was deposited on January 27 2005. Therefore, the 1989 convention will enter into force in Spain on January 27 2006.

The instrument contains qualifications made by Spain, pursuant to Articles 30(1)a, 30(1)(b) and 30(1)(d), which exclude the convention's application when:
  • the salvage operation takes place in inland waters and all vessels involved are for inland navigation;

  • the salvage operation takes place in inland waters and no vessel is involved; or

  • the property involved is maritime cultural property of prehistoric, archaeological or historic interest and is situated on the sea bed.

For these purposes, 'inland waters' are continental waters not connected to sea waters and where maritime navigation vessels do not sail.

Finally, on December 1 2004 Spain ratified the 2003 London Protocol Establishing an International Oil Pollution Supplementary Compensation Fund, which was published on February 2 2005 in the Spanish Official Gazette. The 2003 protocol entered into force on March 3 2005.