International Law Office. 3rd Chapter

The International Law Office has published the Third Chapter of a series of publications by SAN SIMÓN & DUCH and dedicated to the most noteworthy issues of the new Spanish Shipping Law.

This update outlines the law´s provisions governing collisions, salvage, shipwrecks and pollution.

Regarding to collisions, Article 339 of the Shipping Law provides that collisions «will be regulated by the International Convention for the unification of certain rules in Collision Matters, signed in Brussels on 23 September 1910».

Articles 357 and following of the Shipping Law govern salvage, which is defined as: «All acts undertaken to help or assist a ship, vessel, or craft, or to safeguard or recover any goods in danger in any type of navigable waters, with the exception of continental waters that are not communicated with sea waters and are not used by maritime navigation vessels.»

Salvage is governed by the International Convention on Salvage 1989 and related protocols or reviews to which Spain is a party, as well as by the provisions of the Shipping Law. Law 60/1962 on maritime assistance, salvage, towage and extractions has been expressly repealed, with the exception of the provisions of Title II which relate to jurisdiction and procedure; these remain in force.

The Shipping Law governs the removal of shipwrecks and other items from the seabed. However, these provisions do not apply to cultural heritage items situated underwater in areas contiguous to Spain, within the exclusive economic area and on the continental shelf; these are governed by the Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001, and by other treaties to which Spain is a signatory, as well as by specific legislation.

The Shipping Law governs civil liability for damages arising from pollution from vessels in cases that are not covered by the relevant international conventions to which Spain is a party (eg, the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage 1992 and the Bunkers Convention 2001).

This liability is quasi-strict and limited, and the Shipping Law requires mandatory insurance and provides for direct action against the insurer up to the limit of the insured sum.

The Shipping Law departs from the regime set out in the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage 1992 in one respect: it directs liability towards the «shipowner, proprietor or licensee of the vessel at the moment in which the pollution producing event takes place» (Article 385).

The environmental principles of EU law, including the polluter pays principle, are reflected in the regime governing civil liability for pollution under the Shipping Law.


As it is indicated by ILO, the new Shipping Law (14/2014), which took effect on September 24 2014, marks a milestone in Spanish maritime law. It has brought the domestic regime into line with international conventions and EU regulations, and makes Spain one of the few countries in the world where the vast majority of maritime law is governed by a single statute.