The new Spanish Maritime law has come into force regulating recreational boats and comercial vessels, the civil responsibility  and the consideration of boats according to their size. It also addresses topics such as illegal immigration and boat contamination.

The reform replaces the archaic regulation of maritime commerce and law, avaiable in “Título III” of the “Código de Comercio de 1885″. Numerous factors have changed since then in the nautical environment of Spain, but three drafts have given way to “La Ley de Navegación Marítima de 2014″ or “The Ocean Sailing Law 0f 2014″, with the majority agreement of the leading political party and the support of the opposition.

This new law being brought into force brings closer the internal spanish maritime laws and European regulation on commercial vessels, licenses required and civil responsibility. It renews the contract for nautical charter and rental as well as clearing up responsibilities in terms of marine contamination and lost boats.

Boat, Vessel and Small Unit

The passed document reflects the difference between the various sailing vehicles according to their metres in length. A boat is considered as “all vehicles with the structure and capacity for sailing by sea and for transporting humans or items, that has a continuous deck and is more than or equal to 24 metres in length. A the same time, it also outlines that a “vessel”  are all vehicles of less than 24 metres in length and are deisgned for the transport of items or people by sea. The reform also mentions a small unit which are categorised as small boats with various inteneded purposes.

Also stipulated is the issue of marine objects, understood as a floating construction whose intention is to remain suspended in the water and transport any person or item. Lastly, the category of “platform” is understood as “all structures or instalations able to carry out operations of exploiting natural marine resources”.

Asides from classifying boats by size, the reform of the Maritime Sailing Law takes into account the current stage of the boat, whether that be in construction, anchored, grounded or scrapped.

On the other hand, all types of contracts have been renewed, which know includes a forced sale clause in such case as the boat is not fit to be sailed. At the same time, another thing to be introduced is the reform of nautical charter contracts which can know be created with or without an amount. Other contracts curerntly in use are: by rental for charter, commercial shipping, ferries and towing.

Ship Owners and Operators

In relation to civil responsibilty, the sea sailing law distinguishes between ship owners and operators; being the one responsable for whatever happens to the vessel whilst at sea and of the management of the boat: its maintenance, sailability and the hiring of its captain. The ship owner will have to sign themselves up with the “Registro de Bienes Muebles”. In the case of the person in charge of the boat not being the one who owns it outright, they should state from the outset of this law to avoid being subject to accusations. On the other hand, the position of operatoris they who owns the boat and has all responsability for its itinerary and cargo.

Another new aspect of the reform, is that they have finally revoked the need to sign up recreational and sport boats to the “Registro de Bienes Muebles”.

Topics such as illegal immigration and maritime contamination have also been included in the reform, while they still remain primarily subject to International Law and under the control of the European Union. In relation to immigration, they have tried to control the boarding of stowaways, placing more responsibility on the captain of the boat over who is to board.

The other side of civil responsibility is contamination from a preventative viewpoint since it increases the requirements regarding maintaing of boats. However, one of the first things to be mentioned in the reform is also a clarification of the responsibility allocations after an environmental accident, now being the person directly in charge of the vessel at the time. From the release of this legal reform, the boat captain would be the one incriminated in cases of environmental contamination, such as those experienced by Prestige on the Galician coast 11 years ago.

For more information, here you can read the official text in the Official Bulletin from the Cortes Generales.