As the newspaper EL Correo Español – El Pueblo Vasco reports in one of its article published in March, the professionals who make up AIYON Abogados, S.L.P. like to consider themselves members of a ’boutique law firm’ that has earned the trust of its clients and the recognition of its sector.
The AIYON Abogados team is distributed in four locations: Bilbao, Madrid, Cadiz and Algeciras, and all of them form a team of experts in Maritime, Transport, International Trade and Insurance Law that is proud to be able to handle national and international cases of great importance while defending the interests of clients with a very diverse profile. In all cases and circumstances, the secret of success lies in a principle that has been maintained to the letter since the team started working together: direct and personalised attention for a comprehensive legal service provided twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year.
Furthermore, one of AIYON Abogados’ strengths is its international projection. Major world references such as ‘The International Comparative Legal Guides (ICLG)’, ‘The Insurance Disputes Law Review’ and ‘The Chambers ‘Shipping 2021′ Global Practice Guide’ have entrusted the firm with their chapters on Spanish law in both maritime and insurance law.
All of this, without forgetting that the greatest guarantee of its success is the accumulated experience of more than twenty years in handling countless cases in their areas of expertise, some of them as well known as the sinking and pollution of ‘Prestige’, the sinking of ‘Costa Concordia’, the hijacking of the fishing boat ‘Alakrana’, the capsizing of the ship ‘Denev’, etc.
Read article published HERE
On 23 March 2021, one of the largest containerships in the world grounded in the Suez Canal. The vessel was touching the banks on both sides effectively blocking the channel for six days. This caused the stoppage of the “EVER GIVEN” voyage and the delay of about four hundred vessels that were queuing to cross the channel. As a result of this situation, the delivery of the cargoes on board “EVER GIVEN” and the other blocked vessels has been also delayed.
The 2018 container vessel was bound to the Port of Rotterdam from where its cargo was to be distributed to its destination, many of them to Spain.
Although some of the details of the casualty and the causes are still unknown, cargo owners are worried about what will happen to their cargoes now.
Presently, the M/V “EVER GIVEN” has re-floated and is being towed to a place of refuge where to she will be inspected for damage assessment. This could take days, if not weeks. In fact, if the vessel does not pass the inspection, the vessel operator, EVERGREEN, will probably be compelled to tranship the cargo onto one or more alternative ships to conclude the voyage. This will increase the delay on delivery and the costs.
As a summary, therefore, and regardless of how the events will develop, the cargoes on board the “EVER GIVEN” and/or the approximately four hundred blocked vessels will arrive to their destination with important delays and significant costs. The situation with the blockage will take time to be resolved and that it will also cause bottlenecks on the global logistic chain.
Would cargo owners be entitled to claim damages for delayed delivery against the carrier?
Spanish law does give some protection on that respect. To claim damages for delay, cargo interests will need to provide evidence that the delay was unreasonable under the circumstances. Would Spanish Law be sufficient protection? Would Spanish law be applicable to the contract of carriage? After having studied the contracts of carriage generally used by sea carriers, we may conclude that Spanish law will not be applicable as the conditions of these contracts usually remit to English law.
Will the insurance grant cover for delay?
Most marine cargo insurance policies do not cover losses due to delays. This is the case, for example, of “all risks” ICC A clauses in which delay is expressly excluded. Therefore, unless there is an express agreement to remove such exclusion, cargo insurance will not cover the losses for delay.
Lastly, cargo owners might end paying a large part of the invoice for the salvage operation through General Average.
Cargo interests should also bear in mind that salvors that are intervening to rescue the vessel and her cargo have the right to lien the vessel, the cargo, her freight, and bunkers as a guarantee for the payment of their salvage reward. Presumably, a salvage contract (LOF) has been entered into by Owners and Salvors through which the salvage costs and reward will be paid by Owners and the Salvors will not claim against cargo interests directly.
However, it is possible that the shipowner decides to declare General Average. This is a specialty of maritime law based on equity and an interesting option to the shipowner since it requires that interested parties in the marine adventure (vessel, cargo, freight) contribute in proportion to their interests to the payment of the salvage costs.
Cargo interests insured under any of the ICC policies will be covered and their insurer will take care of the General Average contribution. But uninsured cargo interests will need to handle the claim and procure average guarantees/security by themselves before they obtain delivery of the cargo. If guarantee/security for the General Average contribution is not placed, the carrier will be entitled to exercise a lien on the cargo.
Consequently, cargo interests are encouraged to contact their legal advisors to take adequate steps for the handling on this incident.
“Puertos y más”, a magazine specialised in transport and logistics, publishes today an article on the challenges the maritime sector is facing in these difficult times by our colleagues Verónica Meana and Irantzu Sedano.
The year 2020 and its special circumstances had a profound impact on the maritime sector. The covid pandemic has altered the way we operate, hindering the supply of goods and limiting the mobility of people. This has led to the maritime transport of goods being declared an essential activity in Spain. Moreover, the year ended with the culmination of Brexit, which meant no less than additional challenges.
Maritime law is obliged to adjust to the new times and the circumstances arising from this new reality, which is why, in 2021, there are many challenges that the sector in Spain is facing. These include, for example, the development of intermodality, guaranteeing thus connectivity with air and land means of transport, and above all, the rail transport.
Thanks to these connections, delivery times will be speeded up, which will ensure the supply of essential goods. Improving work safety is another challenge to be met that will require bettering the employment situation of seafarers, which has been seriously jeopardised by the pandemic, including labour conflicts due to excessive embarkation periods; fatigue syndromes; uncertainty about their embarkation or disembarkation dates and reliefs; and the need to ensure the repatriation of workers.
We cannot also forget the need to guarantee environmental sustainability of maritime services. Maritime transport is still considered a highly polluting mode of transport (due to the high volume of goods transported by sea and the consequent abundance of maritime traffic). A major effort has already been made to enforce the use of low sulphur fuels, but the maritime industry wants to and must continue to evolve. Some of the challenges that arise in this respect are: researching maritime propulsion systems powered by renewable energies; developing the shipping industry to make new constructions less polluting; and adapting existing ships to new, more environmentally friendly fuels.
Finally, it is necessary to continue to make progress in the digitalisation of administrative and bureaucratic processes, as well as in the automation of port-logistic operations and to adapt legislation to the autonomous vessels that are already a reality. After the complex 2020, this year will bring changes to some of the regulations that affect the sector, such as the State Ports and Merchant Marine Act and the Maritime Navigation Act, as part of the constant adaptation and modernisation required by the maritime world at international, European and national level, as well as by the agents that form part of it, as is the case of our firm, to meet the future challenges the sector is facing.
Read article published HERE
The European Union ended the year 2020 with breaking news. It was the agreement reached “in extremis” with the United Kingdom on the management of trade relations after 1st January 2021; the date on which, after approximately 4 years of extensions and postponements, BREXIT would finally enter into force.
After arduous negotiations, on 24th December, Ursula Von der Leyen (President of the European Commission) and Boris Johnson (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) announced that an agreement had been reached, avoiding so the much feared “Hard Brexit” or “extreme Brexit”, whereby the United Kingdom would leave the European Union without a previous agreement.
There is no doubt that the close trade relations that exist between the two territories have produced significant pressure which has led to this final agreement. In any case, whether by means of a global agreement or by means of sectoral agreements, trade relations with the United Kingdom would ultimately be signed since UK is a vital trading partner for the European Union. In fact, for Spain, the United Kingdom is the fifth in the scale of its trading partners, moving (between imports and exports) over 32 billion Euros during 2019.
The importance of this agreement arises, to a certain extent, from the fact that thanks to it, bilateral trade relations can be maintained without customs duties or quotas, an aspect that is of particular interest to exporters and importers, but which in general affects the whole society, since the costs to be assumed in import operations, as well as in export operations, will always have an impact on the final cost and customer. However, this agreement does not prevent bureaucratic, administrative, and fiscal procedures from being multiplied due to this departure. Examples of it are customs declarations, sanitary and phytosanitary controls, and the payment of VAT on the declared value of the goods at the time of import.
In other words, since 1st January 2021 the United Kingdom is a third country for the European Union, and as it happens with goods entering and leaving third countries outside the EU, the Spanish Customs Authorities will have to ensure that they are informed on and have control of the goods that are to be introduced into their territory and, consequently, into the European Union.
This information about entries and exits will generally be provided by the company carrying out the transport of the goods (shipping companies, airlines, or land carriers) and must coincide with the presented customs declarations. In fact, efficiency and speed in the transmission of this information will be key to facilitating border formalities and thus avoiding discontinuities and delays, which for now are unavoidable. Companies that usually trade with importers or exporters from third countries outside the Union are already aware of the formalities required for these operations.
TRADE AND COOPERATION AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE EUROPEAN ATOMIC ENERGY COMMUNITY, ON THE ONE HAND, AND THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND, ON THE OTHER HAND
With respect to the Agreement reached, we would like to highlight its second part, which includes aspects related to trade, transport, fishing and other provisions that are of interest to our sector with the aim of facilitating trade of goods between the parties and maintaining liberalized trade to the extent agreed in the Agreement.
To this end, different aspects are addressed, such as:
- The recognition of the freedom of transit through their territories to persons with nationality of either Party.
- The prohibition of customs duties, that is, a Party may not adopt or maintain any duties, taxes and other charges imposed on the exportation of a good to the other Party or in connection with such exportation, or any tax that is higher than the tax or charge that would be imposed on similar goods but destined for domestic consumption.
- With respect to taxes and charges, the Parties may not assess these amounts ad valorem, but may simply charge such taxes and charges limited in amount to the cost of the services rendered and shall not constitute indirect protection of domestic products. There are exceptions for some specific services.
- Agree that the Parties may not impose restrictions, prohibitions or monopolies on imports or exports of goods destined for the territory of the other Party (except Article 11 of the GATT 1994).
- That each Party shall determine in its territory the customs value of the goods of the other Party.
- To create rules for determining the origin of goods for the purposes of applying preferential tariff treatment and to establish origin procedures.
- Agree on the sanitary and phytosanitary measures to be applied on goods imported into the Parties to this Agreement.
- Ensure customs cooperation for trade simplification. To this end, measures such as the rapid release of goods, the presentation and advance electronic processing of documentation, the promotion of the association of authorized economic operators, the establishment of the single window, the facilitation of roll-on-roll-off traffic, etc., are taken.
Although this agreement regulates many aspects of interest for the sector, there are other things that it does not resolve and that are fundamental for the correct development of commercial relations. In particular, we would like to make special mention of the exequatur or recognition of foreign judgments, as well as the jurisdiction applicable in the resolution of disputes between the Parties.
Given the transcendence that an incorrect choice of the applicable jurisdiction may imply for the subjects involved in international trade operations, from AIYON Abogados we would like to recommend all agents involved in trade with the United Kingdom, before starting a new commercial relationship, to make express agreements where the jurisdiction to which they will submit their disputes is agreed. In case of pre-existing commercial relations, we recommend analysing whether the jurisdiction agreed upon at the time is still the best for the defence of their present and future commercial interests.
States are responsible for ensuring that ships under their flag are designed, constructed and maintained in compliance with the safety requirements established in the conventions and instruments approved within the IMO. To carry out these tasks, they are supported by the classification societies.
The regulation of classification societies in Spain is contained in articles 97 and 107 of Law 14/2014, of 24 July, known as the Spanish Shipping Act. It is algo applicable the Royal Decree 877/2011, issued following European Directive 2009/15/CE, of 23 April 2009, that establishes unified rules and regulations for organizations in charge of inspection and recognition of vessels, and various European Regulations, such as Regulations (EC) 336/2006, of 15 February 2006, y (EU) 1257/2013 of 20 November 2013.
The main purpose of Royal Decree 927/2020 is to establish in which cases a recognized organization can act in the name of the Spanish Maritime Administration The aim is to reduce waiting times for obtaining the obligatory certificates and to improve the competitiveness of ships flying the Spanish flag as these cannot see their activity affected by delays in carrying out necessary inspections. The new international Conventions and EU Regulations affecting maritime safety and prevention of contamination of the marine environment require more flexibility and delegating on these organizations.
The cases in which recognized organizations may be authorized to carry out ship surveys on behalf of the Spanish General Directorate of the Merchant Navy (GDMN) are as follows:
a) When a Spanish ship is in a foreign port and needs to extend the term of validity of any mandatory certificate as the expiration date approaches.
b) When a Spanish ship is dedicated to making trips between foreign ports and its transfer to a national port is detrimental to its commercial exploitation, to carry out any of the mandatory surveys.
c) When a Spanish ship, due to breakdowns or other causes of accident, must be recognized abroad.
d) When a Spanish ship is built or carries out transformation, reform or major repair works abroad.
e) When a Spanish ship calls in a Spanish port on non-working days or outside working hours, or for any other reason, the surveys cannot be provided by the inspection services of the Harbour Master Office.
f) When, in light of logistical conditions, to adapt to its procedures or the need for agility in the operation, the company so decides.
g) When a ship is abroad and requests to be flagged in Spain.
h) When a company has its head office abroad.
In addition to the above, authorized organizations will be able to control that the rules for the management of the operational safety of a vessel are followed and will be able issue and renew the maritime labour certificate and the declaration of maritime labour compliance Part I, referred to in the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).
Transport insurance is characterised by the principle of universality of risk, that is, the object of the insurance will be the damage that can be suffered by the goods during or as a consequence of the transport, without any other precision and independently of the nature of the incident occurred. In this context, the clauses delimiting the insured risk emerge. These should be differentiated from the limiting clauses of the insured party’s rights.
The character of the delimiting clauses consists of stipulating: (i) which risks constitute the object of the contract; (ii) in what amount; (iii) during what period; (iv) in what time frame. That is to say, the objective of these clauses is to individualise the risk and establish its objective basis, eliminating possible ambiguities and specifying the nature of the risk in coherence with the object of the contract.
This type of clause will never delimit the insured risk in any way that is contradictory to the particular conditions of the contract or in an infrequent or unusual way (Sentence STS 853/2006 of September 11, STS 1051/2007 of October 17, STS 598/2011 of July 20 and STS 273/2016 of April 22).
With respect to the limiting clauses, their character is completely different since their main objective is to condition or modify the insured party’s right. The main characteristic of these clauses is that for the insured party they imply the introduction of exclusions that go beyond the natural content of the contract, restricting, conditioning or modifying his right to receive the compensation or benefit guaranteed in the contract (Rulings, STS 273/2016 of April 22, STS 58/2019 of January 29, STS 609/2019 of November 14 and STS 421/2020 of June 14).
Contrary to what might be expected, the limiting clauses are accepted by Spanish regulations and are perfectly valid as long as they comply with the requirements of the Law of Insurance Contracts. Specifically, Article 3 of the mentioned regulation states that the clauses limiting the rights of the insured party must be specially highlighted and must be specifically accepted by both parties in writing.
The jurisprudence of the Supreme Court: Limiting clauses vs Delimitation clauses
Before starting the jurisprudential analysis of the validity and characteristics of the different clauses included in insurance policies and which affect in a direct way the rights of the insured party, we consider to be relevant to study a prime and practical example where we can observe the difference between the delimitation and limiting clauses: the requirement to subject the vehicle and the cargo to “due vigilance” during the transportation. A concept that represents a clear example of how insurance companies try to limit and consolidate their policies, through their clauses, so that the insured party guarantees a cargo transport that fulfils some minimum and general security requirements.
When considering the requirement to subject the vehicle and its load to “due vigilance”, an obligation that is imposed on the insured party in the agreed coverage, the first thing that should be emphasised is that its interpretation is not uniform or steady, since each insurance company will determine the characteristics or requirements it will demand from the insured party. However, we can outline some common patterns that are recurrent in most of the policies, which we set out hereafter:
– The vehicle must be completely and properly closed.
– The vehicle must have all the locking, alarm and locking devices available to it in proper working order and use.
– The vehicle may not be parked in inappropriate and tentative areas, that is lonely, poorly lightened areas with uncontrolled entrance, not subject of surveillance, etc.
– The vehicle must be parked primarily in a monitored parking, in a completely closed garage or building or in a solidly built and locked area.
– If the insured party proves the impossibility to park in an appropriate place, it is possible to accept other options of parking if: the vehicle is parked with other lorries, in properly-lighted areas adjacent to establishments open 24 hours a day, provided that the driver spends the night inside the vehicle, etc.
Having analysed the requirements stipulated in the transport insurance policy, the question to ask is: are these delimiting or limiting clauses?
Already in 2017, we published an article on the validity of the limitation of coverage of insurance policies for the transport of goods due to the lack of due vigilance during road transport (“Limitation of coverage due to lack of due vigilance during road transport“). At that time the Supreme Court, with its ruling of 7 November 2017 (STS 590/2017) recognized that there were two opposing interpretative criteria regarding the qualification of such clauses:
1. Those that consider that these clauses are delimiting for the purpose of the insurance.
2. Those that consider that these clauses are limiting the rights of the insured party.
At that time, the Supreme Court opted for the second interpretation, establishing an interpretative criterion for the rest of the courts. That means, it considered that the clauses that developed the concept of “due vigilance” limited and modified the rights of the insured party. The Judgement of November 7, 2017, reads as follows: “The clause that is the object of the dispute cannot be qualified as a clause that delimits the risk, given that its content, interpreted systematically, does not adjust to the nature and function of these clauses, that is, it does not attempt to individualize the risk of theft of the goods and to establish its objective basis. On the contrary, the criterion which it incorporates, in a decisive manner, apart from establishing or defining the objective basis of the risk, limits the cover initially agreed with the establishment of a regulation which departs from the natural content of the contract concluded, and from what may be considered usual or deriving from the introductory or particular clauses”.
Now, three years later, the Supreme Court, once again, ratifies this criterion by means of its Ruling of October 22, 2020 (STS 3415/2020), in which the limiting character of these clauses is reiterated and it is stated: “With respect to the distinction between clauses that delimit coverage and limiting clauses, the delimitation clauses specify the object of the contract and establish the risks that, in the event of its occurrence, cause the insured party to have the right to the benefit because it constitutes the object of the insurance. While the limiting clauses restrict, condition, or modify the insured party’s right to compensation or the benefit guaranteed in the contract, once the risk covered by the insurance has occurred. (…). The regulation of the insurance contract for land transport of goods itself establishes a series of material, temporal, and spatial exclusions and limitations: damage due to the intrinsic nature or inherent defects of the transported goods (Art. 57.2 LCS); carrying out the journey within the time limit (Art. 58 LCS); carrying out the transport within national territory (Art. 107.1.a LCS). These legal limitations, together with the intrinsic purpose of this insurance modality of compensation for material damage that the transported goods may suffer on the occasion of or as a consequence of the transport, make up its natural content. Whereas the rest of the limitations, which are usually more or less literal and extensive transcriptions of national or international forms (in this case, according to the policy itself, of the Institute Cargo Clauses, of the Institute of Insurers of London) suppose the introduction of exclusions that go beyond the natural content of the contract and, therefore, are limiting clauses, in the sense and with the effects foreseen in art. 3 LCS. As we have already stated in the aforementioned ruling 590/2017, of 7th November. 6.- Consequently, we must conclude that a clause such as litigious clause, which established a series of determining factors (places and times of parking, locked premises, surveillance, etc.) to the coverage of the risk in the event of theft of the goods, is a limiting clause of the insured party’s rights, and not merely one that delimits them”.
Although the criterion applied by the Supreme Court is clear, in the lower courts these clauses remain a controversial concept and that is because limiting clauses are every time broader and their presence is very frequent in insurance policies in general.
For all these reasons, we recommend that users (insured parties) duly analyse every type of insurance policy offered to them, particularly what regards the limiting clauses contained in the policy, before agreeing to any type of insurance contract. To this effect, you can always count on the assistance and advice of our law firm, AIYON Abogados.
Already in 2006, the European Union estimated that 75% of the goods transported by vehicles on its roads were not properly stowed. What is more, it then calculated that 1 of 4 accidents involving vehicles fitted out for the transport of goods had their origin in deficient stowage.
Cargo stowage is considered the adequate placement, distribution, protection and fixing of goods inside a container or vehicle so that they can safely arrive to their destination, under the custody of the carrier.
This has always been an ill-defined, imprecise term and has led to various interpretations. In response to this, the courts have accumulated multiple sentences with contradictory definitions in relation to the interpretation of the concept itself, as well as with respect to the similarities or differences in relation to others, such as the lashing of the goods.
On the one hand, there are courts that understand that lashing and stowage are different concepts for which different agents may be responsible (Murcia Provincial Court – Decision 88/2016 or the Supreme Court – Decision of 22 November 2006), yet, on the other hand, there are courts that consider that lashing is an intrinsic part of stowage and, therefore, must be carried out by the loader as part of his duties (Barcelona Provincial Court – Decision of 30 April 2015).
Although the situation has improved, this is still a burning issue and we need to work on it. For this reason, the Basque Government, together with the Institute for Cargo Safety and other agents and institutions in the sector, has promoted the creation of a complete Basque Guide for Road Transport of Goods, which we believe can be very useful for the agents involved in these tasks and in the area of transport.
The Guide is based on four general rules, as follows:
– Directive 2014/47/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 April 2014 on the technical roadside inspection of the roadworthiness of commercial vehicles circulating in the Union and repealing Directive 2000/30/EC
– Law 15/2009, of 11 November, on the contract for land transport of goods.
– Law 16/1987, of 30 July, on the Regulation of Land Transport.
– Royal Decree 563/2017, of 2 June, which regulates the technical roadside inspections of commercial vehicles circulating in Spanish territory.
In addition, the guide is divided into several chapters which, among other matters, deal with aspects such as stowage tools; damage caused by deficient stowage; who is responsible for the cargo, stowage and lashing; or what criteria are used in the inspections and how they are carried out. Furthermore, it tries to clarify, to the most possible extent, the controversies raised by this term, and to this end it provides the following list of aspects that are considered to be inherent to the concept of STOWAGE:
– Verification of the packaging, check that it is suitable for the transport of goods
– Protection, if necessary.
– Loading into the vehicle.
– Conditioning of the goods for transport.
– Stabilisation, if necessary.
– Adequate weight distribution.
– Fixing and immobilisation of goods.
– Checking during the journey, and subsequent tightening if necessary.
The Guide promotes that the loader makes a correct description of the goods and ensure that it is correctly packed (paying particular attention to dangerous goods). In addition, they must ensure that the vehicle and the fastening equipment used for the transport are suitable and that the person or entity in charge of loading the goods onto the truck is duly informed of everything.
Regarding the duties of the loader, these basically consist of two concepts: (i) the review prior to loading and (ii) the review of the operation at the end of the loading and before initiating the transportation.
Finally, and with respect to the responsibility of the Carrier, even if this has not assumed the tasks of loading and unloading the goods in the means of transport, it is required to: (i) carry out a visual inspection of the truck and the goods to ensure that there is no lack of security; (ii) ensure that the vehicle can provide all certificates and markings, if necessary; (iii) check periodically the securing of the transported goods; (iv) carry out loading, stowage and lashing only in the event of express agreement and prior to the presentation of the vehicle.
The eternal question of who is responsible for incorrect stowage and/or lashing is answered in Article 20 of Law 15/2009, of November 11, on the Contract for Land Transport of Goods. This answer is still being worked on as it does not convince many of the agents involved in road transport, for whom the possible handling of the cargo by the carrier should be left without effect. The current response given by Law 15/2009 is clear: “The operations of loading the goods on board the vehicles, as well as those of unloading them, shall be carried out by the loader and the consignee, respectively, unless these operations are expressly assumed by the carrier before the actual presentation of the vehicle for loading or unloading. The same applies to the stowage and unstowage of the goods“.
In other words, if no express agreement is made prior to loading, the loader will be presumed to be responsible for securing of the goods. This is also ratified by RD 563/2017 and the subsequent clarifications of the “DGT” (Directorate General for Traffic), see our articles “Inspection of the securing of cargo on trucks, clarification by the DGT” and “R.D. 563/2017, of 2 June 2017, Technical inspection of commercial vehicles”
Similarly, article 21 of Law 15/2009 reinforces this interpretation, considering that it will be the loader who must prepare the goods for transport, just as it will generally be the receiver of the goods who will be responsible for their rejection at destination, unless expressly agreed otherwise.
As we can see, the Guide is very extensive in its content and presents a very high degree of details, by which it attempts to stipulate a common terminology and criteria which will help to establish greater legal security in the sector, as well as it aims to improve the practices, training, and competitiveness of operators and shippers, and the purpose of all this to promote a more professional and safe road transport of goods.
After the intense legislative changes that the different regulations have undergone in recent months due to the new reality imposed on us by COVID-19, there are now several definitive changes in the area of land transport, adopted to renew and adjust national and European regulations to current needs.
Firstly, we must mention the “Mobility Package” approved on 9 July by the European Parliament, a package that includes two regulations and a directive whose main objective and purpose is to definitively achieve a single, fair and loyal European transport market, ensuring that all companies in the sector have the same competition rules regardless of their country of establishment.
In the first place, there is EU Regulation 2020/1054 of 15 July 2020 amending Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 as regards minimum requirements on maximum daily and weekly driving times, minimum breaks and daily and weekly rest periods and Regulation (EU) No 165/2014 as regards positioning by means of tachographs, which entered into force partially on 20 August, with the exception of Article 1. 15 and Article 2.12 which will enter into force on 31 December 2024, amending the regulation on driving and rest periods and positioning by means of tachographs, in order to generate clear, appropriate and proportionate rules which are uniformly enforced in order to achieve the strategic objectives of improving drivers’ working conditions and, in particular, to ensure fair competition between operators and contribute to road safety.
Furthermore, we have EU Regulation 2020/1055 of 15 July 2020 amending Regulations (EC) No 1071/2009, (EC) No 1072/2009 and (EU) No 1024/2012 in order to adapt them to developments in the road transport sector, which will enter into force on 21 February 2022 and which, among other things, aims to combat the phenomenon of so-called “letterbox companies” and to ensure fair competition and a level playing field in the internal market by ensuring that road transport operators established in a Member State have a real and continuous presence in that State by carrying out their activities from there. It is therefore necessary to strengthen the provisions relating to the existence of an effective and permanent establishment.
Finally, there is EU Directive 2020/1057 of 15 July 2020, which lays down specific rules with respect to Directive 96/71/EC and Directive 2014/67/EU for the carriage of drivers by road, and which amends Directive 2006/22/EC with respect to enforcement requirements and Regulation (EU) No 1024/2012. This directive essentially regulates the posting of workers in the inland road transport sector and for it to enter into force it must be accepted by the individual states before 2 February 2022, by which date they should have adopted and published all the regulatory and administrative measures necessary to ensure compliance with the directive.
In addition to the above, it is planned to amend the Inland Transport Regulation Act (LOTT) by modifying its content in order to bring the scales of penalties already laid down into line with the new offences provided for in the above-mentioned package of measures. Examples of this are offences relating to driving times and rest periods.
Furthermore, due to the international financial crisis resulting from the pandemic, on 15 September 2020 the Council of Ministers approved the urgent administrative processing of the amendment of the LOTT to include a penalty system against late payment in the road haulage sector. This is because many transport companies have seen their liquidity seriously affected since last March when the health crisis affected their regular traffic and it is clear that, if urgent measures are not taken, their economic situation may be aggravated by non-compliance with the payment deadlines agreed in transport contracts.
On Wednesday 8 July 2020, Royal Decree Law 26/2020, was published in the Official State Bulletin, with the aim of approving a set of measures required for the purposes of economic recovery in the transport sector and in the field of housing, protecting the health of workers and travellers, guaranteeing the availability of essential goods and services, providing liquidity to companies and reducing administrative burdens.
In this article, we will analyse this regulatory text, focusing on the specific measures arising for the transport service.
1. AIR TRANSPORT
Articles 2 to 7 include the management measures adopted for air transport. General prevention measures against COVID-19 that companies in the sector must guarantee compliance with, as well as all those that the Autonomous Communities have adopted.
Operational guidelines have been established from Europe, which are applicable to the entire Spanish territory. The EASA/ECDC Guidelines will be compulsory not only for airport managers but also for companies that carry out their work as auxiliaries at airports:
– Inform users on the preventive measures and health reasons why they should refrain from accessing the airport, as well as the consequences of detecting a person suspected of having COVID-19 during health checks.
For its part, the Transport Facilitation Committee will be responsible for coordinating and supervising all the actors who have a role in the application or definition of these measures.
2. MARITIME TRANSPORT
Articles 8 to 14 set out the measures taken to revitalise the maritime sector. Firstly, the reasoned reduction of maritime traffic requirements for 2020 at the request of the concessionaire will be permitted, due to the impossibility of compliance (deriving from COVID-19).
Likewise, the liquid quota of the occupation rate accrued during the financial year 2020 may be reduced, being determined this reduction depending on the decrease in maritime traffic or, failing this, on incomes attributable to the activity, the different types and also depending on the economic and financial situation of the Port Authority.
With regard to the activity tax, the Port Authorities may (upon request of the taxpayer) leave the lower limit of the annual activity tax quota without effect for the year 2020. In turn, the enforceability of the activity fee established in the authorisation may also be modified.
As we have already commented in other publications, this Royal Decree confirms that the fees for vessels (between 1 March 2020 and 31 October 2020) may be modified, depending on the reason for the stay in port waters. Likewise, the Port Authorities may grant deferrals of tax debts accrued (between 1 March and 31 October 2020) and not paid.
As a final comment, it should be noted that the provision of human resources at the passenger terminals serving the regular maritime services during the state of alarm, are considered as emergency services for all purposes.
3. RAIL TRANSPORT
With regard to Railway Transport, it should be mentioned that RENFE is authorised to arrange credit operations during the 2020 financial year, for the amount of 1 billion euros.
It is also planned to authorise extraordinary credits to be financed with Public Debt.
4. ROAD TRANSPORT
Articles 18 to 30 contain the provisions relating to road transport. Firstly, moratoriums will be granted for the public goods and occasional passenger transported by bus.
Among other measures, deferrals of payments of instalments on loan, leasing and renting contracts used by self-employed persons and public undertakings for the purchase of buses and public transport vehicles of more than 3.5 tonnes, maximum authorised mass, are accepted.
With regard to the approval of road transport authorisations, this will be extended, establishing 2021 as an open deadline for approval of transport authorisations that should be endorsed in 2020 and have not been yet. Also, for those authorizations that should be endorsed in 2020 and have done so, the deadline for their next endorsement is extended until 2023. In addition, the opportunity to apply for extraordinary rehabilitation for public transport authorisations invalidated during 2020 is provided due to the inability to certify the requirements for their endorsement.
Finally, an extension of 3 months is established for those technical inspection certificates of vehicles that expire between 21 June and 31 August.