Some news for seafarers and maritime lawyers. On Friday the 2nd of November, the Council of Ministers reactivated the temporarily suspended General Draft Law on Marine, Shipping and Navigation. All maritime lawyers were longing for the suspension of the law, which had not been passed in full during the previous legislature. At the recommendation of the General Codification Commission, a new path is being embarked upon in the form of a new Draft Law on Maritime Shipping and Admiralty. This follows a favourable report by the Ministry of Justice,
Maritime Shipping Lawyers and any others of us that are interested in Maritime Law will have to wait and see what this new version of the Draft Law on Maritime will bring us. Not too many surprises are expected with regard to the earlier draft.
The General Draft Law on Admiralty and Maritime Law – Shipping News, a familiar face to the Spanish maritime lawyer
There are a number of changes compared to the Maritime Law that maritime lawyers have traditionally studied. However, none of these will be entirely unknown to the attentive maritime lawyer. It would appear that our beloved nineteenth-century Commercial Code is finally going to be left behind, leading to great changes that will need to be taken into account. As stated within the doctoral thesis of the founder of GMM, Commercial and Maritime law Shipping Law Firm, by giving a few examples, everything points towards an appropriate separation between ship-owners and shipping operators. The owners retain possession of a vessel at all times and equip it to sail under their own name and responsibility, also taking care to meet the essential obligation of ensuring the seaworthiness of vessels. The operators focus on the operation of vessels, both their own and those belonging to others. This is yet another new aspect for a maritime lawyer when trying to pinpoint the extract roles of these two parties.
This simple – if tenuous – separation between those who build, equip and provision vessels (ship-owners) and those who operate them commercially is a step forward to be borne in mind. We have noted this separation on previous occasions, in fact, with regard to the voyage charter sector, to mention one example. Personally, as a maritime lawyer I believe that the distinctions between them could be drawn even more clearly. The different spheres of responsibility/liability of the owner of a vessel, a ship-owner, a ship-owner/operator and a shipping operator could be delimited with greater clarity as to the boundaries. (See our lecture article on “The seaworthiness of vessels within international Maritime Shipping Law”).
Any party or parties with an objective or subjective obligation for the seaworthiness of a vessel at a given point will be more easily identified for the purposes of determining the degree of liability of each of them. This will apply from the ship’s launch from the dockyard, through the signing and implementation of operating contracts, to breaking the ship up.
To all of the above, the new Draft General Law on Maritime Shipping adds a series of requirements for vessels’ registration. It would allow for appropriate public information on who owns a particular vessel being operated. This change will be extremely welcome to all maritime lawyers, as it is often required for simple reasons of the legal maritime safety of marine traffic.
The section on maritime safety and marine pollution, aspects that are both closely linked to the seaworthiness of a vessel, is taking the lead. That was to be expected, as we have always stressed at our maritime legal practice. As maritime solicitors, we are proud to offer high-quality marine management services relating to maritime safety and the safety of vessels. We have made loss prevention and maritime investigation a specialism of ours.
NOTE.- For anyone seeking further information, the best and most complete bibliographical reference is: EMPARANZA SOBEJANO, A. and MARTÍN OSANTE, J. M. (co-ords.), Estudio sistemático de la propuesta de Anteproyecto de Ley General de la Navegación Marítima [Systematic study of the proposed Draft General Law on Maritime Shipping], Servicio Central de Publicaciones del Departamento de Transportes y Obras Públicas del Gobierno Vasco [Central Publications Service of the Department of Transport and Public Works of the Basque Government], Vitoria, 2006.