International Maritime Organization Convention on salvage enters into force

Julio López Quiroga.

15/03/2006 International Law Office

On January 27 2006 the 1989 International Maritime Organization International Convention on Salvage entered into force in Spain. At the same time, Spain denounced (with effect as of January 19 2006) the 1910 Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law on Assistance and Salvage at Sea. Until January 2006, the 1910 convention - together with national legislation (ie, Law 60/1962 and Decree 984/1969) - was the only applicable legislation, since the 1967 protocol amending the 1910 convention had not been ratified.

With some delay, Spain has thus become party to the 1989 convention, which has been ratified by the most important states with shipping interests. Despite Spain's late ratification, the 1989 convention was commonly applied in contractual practice through the use of the Lloyds Standard Form of Salvage Agreement (LOF 2000).

Spain has reserved the right not to apply certain rules of the 1989 convention where the following are involved:

  • salvage operations carried out in inland waters where all vessels involved navigated inland;
  • salvage operations carried out in inland waters in which no vessel was involved; and
  • maritime property located on the seabed that has a prehistoric, archaeological or historical interest.

For these purposes, port waters are not considered as inland waters.

The entry into force of the 1989 convention did not involve the repeal of the national legislation on salvage at sea that has been in force in Spain since the 1960s - namely, the Maritime Assistance, Salvage, Findings and Extractions Law (60/1962) and Decree 984/1969 implementing the law. The national legislation completes the regime established under the 1989 convention: under Articles 13 and 15 of the convention, national law is used to decide on the apportionment of a reward between the shipowner and the crew, and to identify the debtor of the reward. Under national legislation, one-third of the reward is allocated to the shipowner, and two-thirds to the crew and any third parties that may have helped. The reward must be paid by the shipowner, which is entitled to claim against the remaining interests.

With regards to public salvage operations, the State Ports and Merchant Marine Law 1992 classifies human salvage operations at sea and the fight against maritime pollution as 'public services' that must be provided by administrative bodies. For these purposes, the state-owned company Salvage at Sea and Maritime Safety Company carries out salvage operations, among other duties.

Finally, with regards to salvage rewards, Spain is party to the International Convention on Maritime Liens and Mortgages 1993 and the International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules relating to the Arrest of Sea-going Ships 1952.