The Abandonment of Containers in Maritime Traffic

A recurring problem in maritime transport is the abandonment of containers loaded with goods.

When the consignee of the goods does not come to collect them after having been requested to do so as the authorised party, shipping companies are faced with a series of costs such as delays due to the occupation of the container with other people’s goods, the storage of the container or the internal transport costs of the container.

In this situation, there are two possible solutions: to initiate a procedure for abandonment and auction of the cargo by the competent customs office, or to initiate a notarial procedure for the deposit and sale of the goods.

Abandonment proceedings initiated by the Customs Department

In order to initiate this procedure, a declaration of abandonment must first be issued by the competent customs administrator and the following rules must be complied with.

As soon as the goods are in a situation of abandonment, in accordance with the provisions of Article 316 of the Decree of 17 October 1947 approving the revised and amended text of the General Customs Regulations, a file is opened, headed by the written declaration of the interested party or by a statement of the facts justifying the abandonment. Within a maximum of 5 days from the opening of the file, the goods shall be examined and, after hearing the second head of customs, the administrator shall decide whether or not the abandonment is admissible.

This decision shall be notified to the person concerned with the goods, if known, and he shall be given a period of 5 days in which to accept or contest it.

If the person concerned is not known, the decision is published in the BOP and on the notice board of the customs office, and a further period of 5 days is granted for the submission of any objections. At the end of this period, the file is sent to the General Directorate of Customs for a decision.

If abandonment is finally declared, the administrator seizes the goods on behalf of the Treasury, which sells them by public auction.

From the proceeds of the sale, customs duties, fines, storage and warehousing costs and any other costs relating to the goods shall be deducted in order. Freight and the costs of loading and unloading the goods may then be deducted and, after the above deductions have been made, the balance, if any, shall be paid tothe Public Treasury as abandoned goods.

Notarial Deposit and Sale of Goods Procedure, regulated in Law 14/2014 on Maritime Navigation (Article 513 ff.)

This procedure for the deposit and sale of goods, regulated in Law 14/2014 on Maritime Navigation (articles 513 et seq.), may be initiated when the law applicable to the charter party of the vessel authorises the carrier to request the deposit and sale of the goods in cases where the consignee does not pay the freight or does not appear to collect the goods transported (containers and their contents).

In order to initiate the procedure, the interested party must indicate the transport in question and provide a copy of the Bill of Lading (B/L); it is also necessary to identify the consignee, the freight or expenses claimed, the type and quantity of goods and an approximate value of the same.

Once the application has been accepted, the Notary will request payment from the addressee, unless the title is not nominative, in which case payment will only be requested if the applicant so wishes and designates a person to do so.

If the addressee is not found within 48 hours, or if the addressee does not pay, the notary will order the goods to be deposited.

Once the goods have been deposited and the depositee has been appointed,

the notary shall authorise their valuation and sale by a specialised person or body or by public auction; the amount obtained from the sale shall be used first to pay the deposit and the costs of the auction, and the remainder shall be delivered to the applicant to pay the freight, or expenses claimed, and only up to that limit.

However, if the holder of the goods objects to payment at the time of the summons or within 48 hours thereafter, the remainder of the sale proceeds shall be deposited pending the outcome of the case. In this case, the holder must initiate legal or arbitration proceedings before the competent court. If the action is not brought within the time limit set, the Notary will return the balance to the claimant in payment of the freight or expenses claimed and up to that limit.

Finally, if the deposit has been avoided or cancelled by the provision of sufficient security by the addressee, the latter must file an action within the time limit. If he fails to do so, the notary will order payment of the claim from the security provided.

Since the notarial procedure involves costs (notary, expert opinions, etc.), it is not advisable for goods of low value, in which case it is preferable to use the customs abandonment procedure.

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UNIPORTBILBAO highlights in its Newsletter the article by AIYON on the Sanctioning Power of the DGMM

We would like to thank UNIPORTBILBAO – Port Community for including in its April Newsletter our article on the sanctioning power of the Directorate General of the Merchant Navy (DGMM), content that we published last February on our website.

AIYON Abogados, as a member of UNIPORTBILBAO, has been collaborating for several years with this multimodal logistics cluster founded in 1994, which was born from a group of public and private companies in the Basque Country whose objective is to promote, through cooperation, the competitive improvement and promotion of the PORT OF BILBAO and the companies and services related or linked to the port and its daily operations.

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“GREEN SHIPPING”, 2050

Like so many other industries, the maritime industry is heading or at least intends to head towards a gradual decarbonisation in this century. While it is true that, as published in the report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on the analysis of maritime transport in 2023 (1), greenhouse gas emissions from the maritime sector have increased by 20% in the last decade, and that the sector operates a largely older fleet powered almost exclusively by fossil fuels, it is no less true that at the recent United Nations Climate Conference (COP28) in December 2023, numerous milestones were set in the interests of the longed-for decarbonisation.

In principle, the year 2050 has been set as the target date for the total decarbonisation of the sector according to the new strategy published by the IMO, which will undoubtedly require massive capital investment that could lead to a rise in the costs of maritime transport, and the consequent concern for all those island developing countries that are highly dependent on maritime trade.

The UNCTAD report stressed how environmental objectives will need to be balanced against economic needs, but in any case, the cost of inaction far outweighs the investment required. Similarly, it outlined how factors such as cleaner and more efficient fuels, and digital solutions such as AI or blockchain, are sure to play a key role in improving the sustainability and efficiency of maritime transport.

However, the question of who should be responsible for the transition to full decarbonisation is a complex one.

Well, it appears that the major flag states such as Liberia, Panama and the Marshall Islands will be responsible for meeting and enforcing the new green shipping standards, but in turn, the burden of making investments in alternative fuels, facilities to supply such fuels and more efficient and greener ships, falls on maritime operators in general, ports and the energy industry.

Some of the COP 28 milestones that may have the most potential to help achieve full decarbonisation in maritime transport are:

IN RELATION TO GREEN MARITIME CORRIDORS:
The US announced its partnership with the UK, Canada and Korea to form green shipping corridors for major shipping lanes.  In parallel, the US and Korea also announced that they are undertaking feasibility studies on the use of green ethanol or ammonia to power ships on selected routes.

The UK, for its part, also announced that agreements have been reached on green maritime corridors, including the creation of an International Green Corridors Fund hand in hand with the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark.

The pre-feasibility study of the Chilean Green Corridor has been completed and feasibility studies are underway.

ON ALTERNATIVE FUELS AND THE PROGRESS OF SHIPS:
The Pacific Blue Shipping Partnership (Fiji, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu) – committed to the retrofitting/replacement of more than 11,000 vessels among the 7 member countries.

France announced a USD 800 million investment in green shipping innovations, as well as the creation of a USD 1.2 billion public-private investment fund as part of its national maritime decarbonisation plan, including already USD 500 million in public investment and USD 200 million from CMA CGM for investments in port infrastructure, sustainable marine fuel production, retrofitting and replacement of existing vessels and decarbonisation of the government fleet.

The US Department of Energy invested $7 billion in hydrogen hubs across the country, working in conjunction with several of its ports.

In light of this, together with the other milestones achieved at COP28, it is clear that the outlook for the maritime sector has changed significantly. Maritime transport maintains the lowest level of CO2 emissions per tonne/mile compared to all other types of transport, and the sector is certainly keen to maintain this position as other transport sectors decarbonise as well, having demonstrated at COP28 that shipping is making efforts to invest in and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the energy transition.

(1) Review of Maritime Transport 2023 | UNCTAD

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“ESTRATEGIA EMPRESARIAL”, echoes our almost 9 years of experience in the market

As a firm founded in 2015 in Bilbao, the publication highlights our multidisciplinary team of eight expert lawyers, valuing our comprehensive 360º legal advice. 

With a proven impact at national level acting from our four offices located in Bilbao, Cadiz, Madrid and Algeciras, with which we cover strategic areas for the transport and logistics sector, ESTRETAGIA EMPRESARIAL also highlights the fact that we have all kinds of collaborators at national and international level that help us to cover all the demands for advice and assistance that our clients may have anywhere in the world.

Likewise, the publication points out our commitment to disseminate all kinds of legislative and jurisprudential developments related to the logistics sector, both in terms of maritime law, transport law in general, insurance and national and international trade via our conferences, talks to clients or the two corporate websites: www.aiyon.es and shiparrestrelease.com.

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2024

Notes to the Judgments of the CJEU and the High Court KBD of England on the Prestige Case

The English Court does not apply the doctrine of the CJEU which confirmed the possibility of recognising the Spanish conviction in the Prestige case in England.

The environmental tragedy of the M/T Prestige initiated a long-running legal dispute between the insurer of the M/T Prestige (The London Steam-Ship Owners’ Mutual Insurance Association Limited, hereinafter “the Club”) and Spain, through two different proceedings in two Member States at the time, the United Kingdom and Spain.

This article is based on Spain’s application to the UK courts in 2019 under Article 33 of “Regulation 44/2001 on Jurisdiction and the Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters” to recognise and enforce the Spanish court’s judgment. This decision was the Enforcement Order of 1 March 2019 of the Provincial Court of A Coruña enforcing its previous judgment, confirmed in cassation by the SC on 19 December 2018. It condemned the Master, the owners of the Prestige and the Club against the Spanish State and more than 200 other parties. As far as the Club was concerned, up to the contractual limit of USD 1 billion on the basis of the insurance policy.

The High Court of Justice Business and Property Courts of England and Wales Commercial Court (hereinafter High Court KBD) granted that application in May 2019, which was ultimately appealed by the Club on the basis of two main arguments under art. 34 of Regulation No 44/2001: (i) argument of incompatibility with the English judgment (ii) recognition of the Spanish judgment would be contrary to English public policy principles for violation of the res judicata rule.

At this procedural stage, the High Court KBD referred a question to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling, in relation to the interpretation of Regulation 44/2001, as to whether the recognition and enforcement in the UK of the sentence imposed in Spain could be refused, due to the existence in the UK of an award and a subsequent judgment upholding it, the effects of which were irreconcilable with the Spanish judgment.

The CJEU ruled on 20 June 2022 that a judgment given by a court of one Member State (UK) on the terms of an arbitral award cannot prevent the recognition, in that Member State, of a decision given by a court of another Member State (Spain), where provisions or objectives of Regulation 44/2001 have been contravened.

Therefore, the English courts had indeed to recognise and enforce the said Order of Enforcement of the AP de A Coruña, since the arbitration award on the terms of which the English judgment was rendered would have infringed certain provisions of Regulation No 44/2001, namely (i) the effect of the arbitration clause inserted in an insurance contract since, according to the CJEU’s own case law, an agreement conferring jurisdiction concluded between an insurer and a policyholder cannot bind the person injured by the insured damage and (ii) the rules of lis pendens since, when the arbitration award was entered into, the insured person cannot be bound by the arbitration award, an agreement conferring jurisdiction concluded between an insurer and a policyholder cannot bind the person injured by the insured damage and (ii) the rules of lis pendens since when the arbitration proceedings were brought in the UK (16 January 2012), proceedings between the Spanish State and the Club were already pending before the Spanish courts. Therefore, in accordance with Article 27 of Regulation 44/2001, the English courts should have suspended the proceedings ex officio until the Spanish courts had declared themselves to have jurisdiction and, if they did so, as was the case, they should have declined jurisdiction in favour of the Spanish courts.

Following the preliminary ruling, the High Court KBD decided on 06 October 2023 on the appeal lodged by the Club:

i). That they were irreconcilable judgments, given that the English judgment declared that under the “pay to be paid” clause, as the shipowners had not paid any amount, the Club was not liable to Spain and the Spanish judgment maintains that the Club is liable to Spain. These positions cannot coexist and therefore, both judgments are irreconcilable and thus, in accordance with art. 34 of Regulation 44/2001, the Spanish judgment can neither be recognised nor enforced in England.

ii). The English judgment in line with the arbitral award is res judicata and as Regulation 44/2001 excludes arbitration from its regulation, the existence of potentially inconsistent decisions and lack of coordination with future arbitral awards is assumed by the Regulation. Furthermore, it understood that since the Regulation does not apply to arbitration, the English court’s decision to ratify the arbitral award did not alter the provisions of the European Regulation.

It also considers that the CJEU, in its ruling on the question referred for a preliminary ruling, exceeded the scope of the questions referred for a preliminary ruling, and purported to apply the law to the facts, which is outside its competence (reserved to the Member States). Considering that the CJEU had exceeded its powers, the High Court KBD considered that it was not bound by its decision.

In conclusion, we must remember that the interpretation issued by the CJEU is binding on the court that asked the question for a preliminary ruling, which may not, under any circumstances, depart from it or ignore it, either on its own initiative or because it is instructed to do so by a hierarchically superior court, and that in the future, this interpretation of the CJEU will be the one that will be applied in the EU. However, the English judgment may be seen as opening a small door to legal uncertainty if it allows a Member State to unilaterally consider that the CJEU has exceeded its powers and that its decision is therefore not binding on it, without prejudice to any liability it may incur for breach of Community law.

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ASETRABI counts on its collaborator, AIYON Lawyers, to analyse safety and efficiency in road transport

On 30 October, the Bizkaia Transport Business Association, ASETRABI, held a conference on efficient driving and load stowage, with speakers including our partner in Bilbao, Zuberoa Elorriaga, as well as Andoni Gortazar, representing the Institute for Load Safety (ISEC), among other professionals from the land transport sector. This is an entity with which our firm also collaborates.

As part of the interesting training sessions that ASETRABI is holding this autumn in Bilbao, all of them of great interest due to the topics covered (loading and stowage, driving efficiency, decarbonisation, alternative fuels, etc.), on this occasion AIYON Abogados has been involved to explain to the participants of the event the complexity of the tasks and actions related to loading and stowage on lorries, all from a legal point of view.

For her part, Zuberoa tried to convey to the listeners the legal vision of stevedoring offered by the applicable international and national regulations, as well as the jurisprudential interpretation made by Spanish judges of the different regulations, always assessed on a case-by-case basis. This is because the extensive experience accumulated by our firm in more than eight years of activity always offers our lawyers a direct contact with the problems, as well as with each of our clients. This allows us to have a very close, as well as practical, view of the problems experienced in the road transport sector from all angles (shippers, receivers, carriers, insurance, etc.), which enables us to provide an appropriate and personalised solution in each of the consultancy services we offer.

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AIYON Abogados Moves to New Office in Algeciras

AIYON Abogados recently gathered in Algeciras part of its team of eight professionals from its offices in Madrid, Bilbao, Cadiz and Algeciras to inaugurate its new location in Algeciras and to share with its customers in the Algeciras enclave the good news that always comes with the opening of new facilities and the incorporation of a new professional to the team, as is the case of Rocío López.

Along with local lawyers Jose Antonio Domínguez and Rocío López, the event was attended by partners Mikel Garteiz-goxeaskoa and Zuberoa Elorriaga, from the Bilbao office; Madrid partner Verónica Meana; and partner and head of Cádiz, Enrique Ortiz, with his colleague Pablo Sánchez.

José Antonio Domínguez, director of the Algeciras office, frames these new developments in the firm’s commitment to improve the service provided to its clients in the area of influence of the Port of Algeciras, among which are shipowners, insurance companies, inland hauliers, forwarding agents, shipping agents, logistics operators, stevedores, shippers and, in general, all types of companies dedicated to international trade and the transport of goods.

“The strategic importance of Algeciras, where our clients have a very important presence, justifies the growth of our team and the improvement of our facilities,” says José Antonio Domínguez, partner in charge of the office.

Algeciras, a strategic location
As one of the most important ports in Spain and located on one of the strategic routes for international trade, the Port of Algeciras is key both for North-South traffic, with an abundant flow of goods to and from Morocco on the various ro-ro shipping lines operating in the Strait of Gibraltar, and for East-West traffic on the major containerised goods traffic routes, being an important hub port.

Algeciras is, on the other hand, a very important bunker or bunkering port in the Mediterranean, with shipyards and an anchorage where ships can make provisions or carry out repairs of all kinds.

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AIJA is held in Athens (Greece) with one of our lawyers as speaker

As planned, the AIJA (International Association of Young Lawyers) Transport Seminar took place in Athens on 14-16 September.

It was a joint event in which the Arbitration Commission and the Public Procedure Commission also participated, bringing together more than 150 young international lawyers. Among them were our colleagues from AIYON Algeciras and AIYON Bilbao, Rocío López and Irantzu Sedano respectively. The latter is an active member of AIJA.

Both lawyers enjoyed six conferences dealing with relevant and topical issues in the transport sector, with the contribution of more than twenty professionals and experts in the field. Among them, the talk on “Blockchain”, “Double Twins” and Autonomous Transport, in which our colleague Irantzu Sedano actively participated as a speaker along with other colleagues from the association, deserves special mention.

In addition to the conferences and the work carried out by the commissions, the participants were also able to enjoy a wide range of leisure and local culture in their free time.

We would like to thank AIJA, and the entire organising committee of the event, for their work and dedication in carrying out this type of international event, which undoubtedly contributes to enriching greatly the transport sector and the professionals that make it up.

Practical Application of the Law on Late Payment in Land Transport (Law 13/2021)

The partial amendment of the Land Transport Law for the purpose of combating late payment in the field of road freight transport by application of the content of Law 13/2021, of 1 October, arose, among other reasons, from the need to solve the problem of late payment of commercial transactions in Spain, which amounts, let us remember, to an average of 90 days and is therefore in breach of the European regulations applicable to these transactions.

With effect from 3 October 2021 and on the general basis that any agreement on payment terms longer than 60 days can be considered null and void, even in companies belonging to the same group, this law creates a new type of offence providing for penalties for those cases in which the legal maximum payment limit is not respected and therefore does not comply with the provisions of Law 13/2021 (article 4) and the Land Transport Law (article 140).

Having said that, we can currently state that this regulation is already having tangible practical consequences, as in Aiyon we have had several consultations related to administrative sanctioning proceedings initiated by the General Directorate of Land Transport against road transport companies, in their capacity as subcontractors of land transport with other effective carriers.

Thus, following inspections carried out locally by the Administration in certain land transport companies, it has been observed that their contractors did not pay the invoices issued for their services within this 60-day period, which is why the inspection has initiated infringement proceedings against the debtors, warning them of this breach of the applicable regulations.

Administrative sanctioning proceedings which, although they can be defended, do not leave much room for refuting the position of the administrative inspector since, when this legal limit is exceeded within the different parameters for calculating the sixty days, little can be said in defence of the debtor’s position.

The fact that there is an agreement, express or implied, between the two carriers involved to relax this time limit upwards, or that there is a prior dispute between shipper and contract carrier that prevents the contract carrier from charging for the carriage, which could be considered a reason to condition the payment of its service to the actual carrier, we do not consider these to be valid excuses in law to justify the use of a longer payment period.

Once the accounts of a transport company have been randomly inspected, or after a complaint by the creditor, the Directorate General for Land Transport will notify those companies that have paid invoices outside the legal deadline of the initiation of the corresponding sanctioning procedure against them, proposing penalties which, in our experience, have ranged between € 2, 001.00 and € 3,000.00  (depending on different factors such as the excess over 60 days, the number of invoices pending payment, etc.), being classified as very serious offences under the Land Transport Law.

In view of the above, it is important to remind operators of the importance of respecting this regulation and of always regularising outstanding payments to road hauliers within the non-mandatory legal deadline (60 days), establishing internally adequate measures to avoid being sanctioned now or in the future.

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