A competitive but also a secure road transportation

We received a new case in our law firm. Our good clients request that we protect their interests in a case of cargo that was stolen during a road transportation between Spain and Italy, a contract that was agreed under the terms of the CMR Convention (Convention relative au contrat de transport international de Marchandise par Route, Geneva 1956).

Once we were acquainted with the details, we learned that several individuals had impersonated the identity of a Spanish freight forwarding company, as well as that of its manager, with the aim to conclude several business agreements by sending emails directly to potential Spanish shippers and offering them budget-friendly transportation from Italy. To our surprise, this plan involved phone conversations in which the fraudsters used the identity of real people, the issuance of false documents using names of real existing companies, the goods collection by the fraudsters themselves in broad daylight at the concerted warehouses, and many other circumstances fitting into an elaborated thriller.

This is not an isolated case. In fact, theft of goods transported by road by means of diverse subterfuges is a serious and a live issue given its high economic impact in Spain and in the rest of the European Union. This reality was noted by various national and international organizations and associations, and has been echoed by the international association TAPA – Transported Asset Protection Association – which has denounced that the resulting number of thefts of goods in 2018 is the highest ever recorded since its foundation 20 years ago and it continues increasing in 2019. Moreover, they point out that the crimes they record in their system represent only a part of the market reality.

All this requires reflecting on the risky situations and the lack of guarantees arising during road transportation, and particularly in international transportation, due to the current dynamics pursued in contracting and subcontracting, among other circumstances. It is a common practice to subcontract the same road transportation in an unlimited way which brings forth a creation of “a chain of subcontractors” which in many cases affects the quality of the service and in the worst cases goods are damaged or stolen.

It is quite frequently a case that an export/import company decides to contract a road transport and for that contracts a reputable carrier. From this very first contact between the two entities to the ultimate and effective realization of the transportation by a professional carrier a chain of subcontractors of the same transportation might be created, a fact that might be unknown to the shipper. At least, of course, until damages occur, and liability is claimed. And it is that the contracting carrier or the first carrier, due to internal organization or due to the lack of its own fleet, can subcontract the transportation agreed with the loader to another carrier that, at the same time, can choose to subcontract it to a third party and so on until a supply chain is crated, a chain which ends in the moment that the very last and effective carrier concludes the agreed transportation. This effective carrier might be located in the country where the business was originally agreed as well as in any other country. When a transportation contract is developed between the shipper/contracting party and the first carrier, it is common to agree a set of conditions and requirements but, when the realization of the transportation moves away from the sphere of the two parties that initially agreed it and it is forwarded to the subcontracted third parties, the conditions that were agreed originally in many occasions are not respected and consequently quality and guarantees are lost (lack of regulatory certifications and permits, non-compliance with the established hours of rest, lack of a valid transport insurance, lack of an insurance for the cargo, insufficient insurance coverages, etc. ).

In order to control this situation, and in particular the problematics presented here, that is, the continued growth of thefts during transportation, it should be seriously considered to implement greater control of road transportation from the moment of its contracting to its conclusion. This control could comprise of limiting the number of accepted subcontracts or by directly prohibiting them to the first carrier, requiring compliance with the initially agreed guarantees from the subsequent subcontracted carriers, establishing verifications of safety in case of subcontracting unknown carriers or requesting the safety standards in the modes of transport, among other options. We should remember that once damage has occurred the circumstances of each transportation and its agents will be scrutinized by the affected parties and their insurers. The result of this analysis might place the carriers and their insurance companies in a delicate situation if, in case of an intent or a serious negligence, limitations of the carrier’s liability exposed in the CMR Convention or in the Spanish Law 15/2009 Contract of Transportation of Goods cannot be applied.

Nowadays, the struggle between cost and quality is part of the reality of national and international road transportation. From our law firm, we urge that shippers and carriers focus on searching for the right balance when establishing a competitive and, at the same time, secure business framework.

PIRACY, A REALITY IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

Piracy in the maritime world is a reality with a history of hundreds of years, being sometimes prosecuted and other times protected by the institutions of the countries present in the different maritime areas around the world. We have been currently witnessing the fact that this phenomenon is still alive and that it is a way of extorting not only companies and individuals, but also governments of those countries that have to address these unlawful actions in the most thorough manner taking always into consideration the vessels’ safety, but above all the welfare of their crews.

Focusing on our own most recent experience, we know that there have been several pirate attacks in waters of the Indian Ocean against Basque fishing vessels, in particular the “Txori Argi” and the “Haizea Lau”, which only demonstrates that, while the pirate attacks at sea do not attract the spotlight of the news worldwide as they used to some years ago, piracy is by no means eradicated. In fact, and talking here on global scale, the incidents associated with this phenomenon far from being diminishing on the contrary have been increasing according to the report of International Maritime Bureau (ICC) which signals that there were 201 incidents of maritime piracy recorded during 2018 compared with the 180 incidents recorded the year before.

These incidents experienced last year, hijackings and kidnappings committed by pirates, whose target were not only cargo and container vessels, including the vessels of the UN organization involved in international aid programs for countries in specific critical situation, but also, to a larger extent, fishing vessels.

Piracy actions that have been recently concentrated on a mayor scale in waters of the Gulf of Guinea, an area that seems to have taken over what happened in the previous years on the Somalia coastline as the recorded incidents dabbled there in 2018 compared with the year before. In fact, waters of Somalia are enjoying a “relative peace”, at least in comparison with the situation in previous years, basically due to two circumstances. On the one hand, the massive deployment of the so-called “Operation Atalanta”, in which Spain is an active participant, and whose main objective is to protect the maritime traffic in the Indian Ocean against the acts of piracy  and, on the other hand, due to the own security measures taken by the vessels, such as the established operating procedures in case of a piracy attack and the presence of private security companies on board. Yet, the navigation close to the Somalian coastline still requires extreme caution on the part of the shipowners and their crews, as demonstrated by what happened with the fishing vessels “Txori Argi” and “Haizea Lau” this year, and which prevents us from excluding Somalia from the areas of risk.

If we look to the future, we can foresee that piracy, as we know it today, will gradually disappear as the navigation of autonomous vessels and vessels piloted by a remote control from a ground base (unmanned vessels) will become a reality on our seas and oceans, developing thus a new way of maritime navigation.

If we focus on this hypothetical scenario, it might be concluded that new cyber pirates could operate from any place around the globe without any need to be on-site and even without need to be a member of an organization, so that military deployments and private security companies on board, which are nowadays common means of deterrence and protection, could not be used as the main guarantors of a nonviolent navigation. The fight against piracy, which will, one way or another, continue being a present and future threat, will have to be adjusted to the scenarios that may evolve, as well as it should be the legal systems of the countries affected by this reality.

Accordingly, it should be noted that if the control system of an unmanned vessel were intercepted from distance by means of technology and for illicit purposes, it is certain that such situation would not fit in with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Montego Bay) related to piracy, since the convention specifies that such acts should be committed through the intervention of the crew or the passengers of a vessel and directed against another vessel. Furthermore, if we examine the crime of piracy after the amendment introduced by the Organic Law 15/2003 of 25th November, the current Criminal Code requires that a seizure of a vessel be preceded by an act o violence, intimidation or deceit and therefore the above mentioned situation (with no violence, intimidation or deceit due to the use of virtual means) would remain, at least at the beginning, out of the current criminal penalization.

To sum up, in accordance with the current regulation, it could be concluded that the possible future acts of piracy that were mentioned above would not be considered but cyberattacks with the application of the provisions for cybercrime and other common criminal definitions provided for in the Criminal Code in accordance with the particular circumstances of each case (misappropriation, damages, etc.). This is, however, insufficient since the future acts of piracy might involve, beside a cyberattack for specific purposes, an offence against the safety at the sea and navigation, a legal interest that the crime of piracy aims to protect.

Thus, we find it necessary to review the concept of piracy, so that it encompasses other scenarios that are currently not covered, such as cyberattacks against unmanned vessels, and that these cases remain not restricted to the category of computer specific crime and other offences. We, from our law firm as a team of professionals of the sector and due to our experience, consider that it is convenient, from now on, to be aware of the new forms of piracy, which might already be a reality, and hence to adjust the regulation and the strategies to be followed without delay in order to stay ahead and protect adequately vessels and their crews.

Judgement of the Spanish Supreme Court in the “SPANAIR crash case”

The recent Judgement of the Supreme Court (The Civil Chamber) nº 1513/2019, of 17th of May 2019, brings to a close the issue on the assessment of personal injuries in aviation accidents as it states that, in the absence of assessment standards for personal injuries caused in aircraft accidents a compensation based on the existing legal scale for personal injuries caused in motor vehicle accidents is considered more appropriate.

The Judgement of the Supreme Court confirms the criterion of the Province (High) Court of Barcelona regarding the absence of two payable compensations accumulated for the same injury, an objective one and a subjective one. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court, disagreeing with the Province Court, considers that the Regulation nº 785/2004 does not pursue the quantification of damage to the victim nor it establishes the criteria of quantification. Its sole objective is to establish a minimum insurance coverage for a risky operation such as that of an air carrier. This damage should be evaluated in each Member State in accordance with their own criteria for assessment of damage since there are no Community rules that would provide a frame of assessment. This is consistent with the doctrine of case of law of the First Chamber of the Supreme Court that determines that recoverable damage is a damage that was suffered. Yet the judgement points out that the indicative use of the scale for car accidents for the quantification of the compensation of personal injuries does not prevent the application of corrective mechanisms depending on the circumstances involved in the sector of the activity to which this application is related. In case of death of a passenger in an aviation accident, its catastrophic nature and all other surrounding circumstances are such that it is reasonable that the compensation resulting from the application of the scale be increased by an additional percentage, which was set at 50% in this particular case.

Finally, the Supreme Court considered that the payment of interests of the article 20 of the Insurance Contract Act should be applicable to the insurance company of the airline since they were not contemplated as punitive damages but as delay interests, consequence of an action brought by the injured party directly against the insurer of the carrier.

This Judgement, in principle applicable to air transport, establishes criteria that are applicable by analogy to personal injuries in maritime transport.

THE NEW CODE OF ETHICS

On March 6th 2019, the General Council of the Spanish Bar approved the new Code of Ethics which came into force on May 9th 2019. This Code encompasses a set of principles of conduct that should govern the professional activities of lawyers and derogates the Code which was in force since 2002. These norms amend shortcomings that were detected since 2002 in order to make them applicable to every Autonomous region and in the areas of the Bar Associations. Moreover, these norms constitute the basis and their development and adaptation should be provided by the Autonomous Councils and the Bar Associations.

The new Code of Ethics considers essential values such as: independence, freedom, dignity, integrity, services, professional secrecy, transparency and collegiality.

The independence of a lawyer, with regard to any influence and against personal interests and external pressures, is an essential requirement of the system of the Rule of Law and of the effective defence of the citizens and is therefore established as a right and a duty.

The freedom of defence and to advise clients on freedom basis is protected and the right to freedom of expression is guaranteed without legitimizing insulting and discreditation.

Lawyers’ conduct should feature honesty, probity, rectitude, loyalty, diligence and veracity. This obliges the lawyer to waive any intervention that might result contrary to the mentioned principles or that might involve any conflict of interest with the clients of other lawyers of the firm.

The right and duty of the professional secrecy is established as a crucial rule and includes all secrets and proposals of the client, those of the opponent and colleagues, as well as all the facts and documents they may have knowledge about or may have received due to the professional intervention. The duties of professional secrecy will remain even after the provision of services has ceased.

The new Code of Ethics allows for publicity of the provided professional services as long as it is in accordance with the values that are essential for the profession.

The professional fees will be agreed on free basis between the client and the lawyer who shall inform the client on the approximate amount or on the bases used to determine it. The new Code of Ethics regulates the content of the order forms (“hoja de encargo”). The lawyer has the obligation to verify the identity of the person who is depositing the funds in order to prevent from money laundering. The lawyer will issue a receipt of the funds which shall be refunded and certified by the relevant accountability. Compensation and reverse charge mechanisms are expressly forbidden.

For the first time in the history, the use of information and communication technology is regulated in the new Code of Ethics and enforces to a responsible and diligent use in order to preserve confidence and professional secrecy.

In conclusion, the new Code of Ethics represents an effort to update and adapt the rules that should govern the professional activity of lawyers.

Royal Decree 257/2019, of April 12th – Rules Governing the Granting of Special Aids for the Adaptation of Port Stevedoring Services

In our article dated May 29th 2017 and entitled “Stevedore Service Regulation Eventually Settled in Spain”, we already mentioned the regulation enacted in the Royal Decree-Act 8/2017, of May 12th , which modifies the regulation of workers that provide port cargo handling services, which has been recently supplemented by the Royal Decree – Act 9/2019, of March 29th, which modifies the Act 14/1994, of June 1st, by means of which temporary employment agencies are governed, so that these can adapt to the requirements of the port stevedoring services.

Now, by means of the Royal Decree 257/2019 of April 12th, after intense negotiations between the Government and the affected parties, and in the pursuit of a mediation focused on stabilizing the employment in the sector and on increasing productivity in general, it has been decided to develop an aid plan for those older workers who request voluntary termination of their employment contract with the pertinent Stevedoring Collectives (the so-called “SAGEPs”) or with the company licensed for port cargo handling services or with the Port Employment Centre where they have been employed, provided, of course, that they comply with the requirements established in the this Royal Decree. The nature and the application and payment terms of these aids are specified in the articles 2 to 13 of this RD.

Moreover, the present regulation establishes a transitional period of adaptation for the workers of the “SAGEPs”, derogates the Order FOM 2297/2013 of October 23rd which determines the required vocational training qualification, as well as any provisions of equal or lower rank that oppose the provisions of this RD, and modifies and updates certain certificates of professional competence related to cargo operations and stevedoring.

This Royal Decree will enter into force the day after its publication in the Official State Gazette (BOE), except for the regulation on processing and granting of aids, which will enter into force two months after the date of its publication.

Development of ship agency duties by the Royal Decree number 131/2019, of March 8th

On March 23rd, 2019, the Spanish official gazette published the Royal Decree 131/2019, of March 8th, whereby ship agents’ duties were developed.

This new regulation complements the provisions of the State Ports and the Merchant Navy Act – Royal Decree 2/2011 of September 5, and the Spanish Shipping Act 14/2047 of July 24, regarding the figure of the ship agent.

The Royal Decree 131/2019 has a total of ten articles that develop the conditions for the establishment and exercise of the activity of ship agents in Spanish ports, both state and autonomous. These ten articles are arranged in two Chapters, one establishing a series of “General Provisions” and another, entitled “Relations of the ship agents with the Marine Administration and the Port Authorities” establishing the functions of this highly relevant figure in the world of maritime transport.

This last Chapter regulates, among other issues: (i) that communications between the ship agent and the maritime authorities will be carried out through electronic means and the national single window; (ii) the obligation to provide continuous attention to the ship and to pay the outstanding debts owed to the Harbor Master or Port Authority until the termination of the agency, termination that must be notified through electronic means; (iii) the creation of a public Registry of ship agents that will facilitate an adequate control of the persons or companies that perform as ship agents.

We would also want to highlight the definition of ship agent contained in the Royal Decree and that describes the agent as “the natural or legal person who deals, on behalf of the owner or shipowner, in whose name and representation he or she acts, with the material and legal steps necessary for the dispatch of and other needs of the ship in port“. This definition is similar although slightly broader than the one contained in art. 319 of the Spanish Shipping Act of Maritime Navigation.

The R.D. 131/2019 of March 8 will come into force on July 1st, 2019.

The legal regime of civil liability in the Prestige case

The Faculty of Law of the University of Deusto, within the framework of the Master in Maritime Law, organised yesterday a workshop to analyse the “Prestige case”. It was a special event because took part on it part of the direct protagonists of the procedure. 
 
The workshop was attended by the environmental prosecutor of Galicia, Mr. Álvaro García Ortiz, with a conference titled “Prestige case, spills of hydrocarbons in the criminal jurisdiction”; the Captain and surveyor Mr. Fernando Cayuela who was nominated at the time by the Basque Government to intervene in the technical-judicial actions; the lawyer Luis Figaredo, who could not be present for reasons beyond his control but sent his presentation in writing under the heading “Legal strategy in the PRESTIGE case in the courts of the United States”; and our partner and colleague of Bilbao Mikel Garteiz-goxeaskoa, who developed an interesting talk about the “Legal regime of civil liability in the Prestige case”.
 
From AIYON Abogados we want to thank those responsible for the Master and the University of Deusto for their invitation to take part in this interesting dissertation.

National Civil Aviation Security Programme, February 1st 2019

The objective of the National Civil Aviation Security Programme (NCASP) is to establish general guidelines to comply with the basic standards of the civil aviation safety, in particular with regard to the organization, practices and procedures necessary for the protection and safeguarding of the passengers, crew, general public, ground personnel, aircrafts, airports and their facilities, preserving the regularity and efficiency of the national and international air traffic.

By means of the Resolution of 1st of February 2019, published on 27th of February 2019, the update of the public part of the National Aviation Security Programme has been adopted. This resolution approves the amendments and updates of the public part of the National Aviation Security Programme, which complies with the standards and recommended practices of the ICAO Annex 17 to the Convention on the International Civil Aviation and the Regulation (EC) No 300/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council and the implemented Regulations.

The authority responsible for the civil aviation security will ensure the compliance with the measures contained in it at:

  1. All national airports, heliports and air navigation facilities, both those included and not included in the airport premises.
  2. All operators, including air carriers, providing services at the airports mentioned in point a).
  3. All entities applying aviation security standards that operate from premises situated inside or outside airport premises and provide goods and/or services to or through airports referred to in point a).

When the application of certain measures is not possible at some airports or heliports, alternative measures will be applied in order to ensure an adequate level of safety in accordance with additional provisions. In any case, these airports and/or heliports will submit a Security Programme for its approval by the appropriate authority.

Royal Decree-Law 23/2018, of December 21, of transposition of Directives in the area of trademarks, rail transport and package travel and linked travel services

On December 27, 2018, Royal Decree-Law 23/2018, of December 21, transposing directives on trade marks, rail transport and package travel and related travel services is published in the BOE (Spanish Official Bulletin).

Title I, which comprises the first article, contains the modifications derived from the transposition of Directive (EU) 2015/2436 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2015, on the approximation of the laws of the Member States in the matter of trade marks. As a novelty, the Royal Decree-Law increases the number of signs that are subject to registration to those that capable of representation in any appropriate form using generally available technology, and thus not necessarily by graphic means, as long as the representation offers satisfactory guarantees to that effect.

The distinction between “trade mark” or “well-known or renowned trade” name disappears and the concept of “infringement of trade mark” is extended to the use of the sign as a trade name or similar designation. Furthermore, the Royal Decree-Law streamlines the registration renewal procedure.

Likewise, it gives the trademark owner the power to prohibit not only the direct acts of infringement of the trade mark by third parties but also the preparatory acts in relation to the use of packing and other means and the power to exercise the rights thereof against goods coming from third countries without being released into free circulation.

As for the competence to declare the nullity and expiration, this is now shared by the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office (directly) and the Courts (indirectly).

Title II, which includes the second and third articles, contains the modifications derived from Directive 2012/34 / EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 21 November 2012 (modified by Directive 2016/2370, of December 14) establishing a single European railway area. It achieves the completion of the single European Area, which had already been applied to international freight transport and international passenger transport, by extending the principle of open access to domestic rail markets.

In view of the potential entry of new actors as infrastructure managers, the Royal Decree-Law incorporates the category of “vertically integrated undertaking” that allows an infrastructure manager and a transport services operator without a different legal personality to coexist in the same company. This implies the need to introduce requirements for the independence of the infrastructure manager and shielding it from possible influences or conflicts of interest with the railway undertakings. This Title also includes the concepts of reasonable margin of profit and alternative route.

The need to register the railway company license in a Registry is eliminated. In addition, the State Agency in charge of Railway Safety has the obligation to communicate without delay the resolution on the license without it being possible to understand the license not approved by administrative silence.

In another order, the Royal Decree-lay includes manoeuvres (previously auxiliary), those services to be supplied in essential service facilities, the supplies in fixed installations and the loading and unloading of merchandise among those essential services and establishes the obligation to inform about the prices and conditions of access to service facilities not managed by the infrastructure manager.

Title III, article four, contains the modifications derived from the transposition of Directive (EU) 2015/2302 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 25 November 2015, related to package travel and linked travel arrangements.

Among the main modifications of the Royal Decree-Law, it is worth mentioning the modification of the scope of application and the harmonized definitions. The protected subject becomes now the “traveller”, which is a broader than the concept of “consumer”. In addition, the scope of the package is extended, and the concept of “linked travel arrangements” is introduced, establishing which combinations of services can be considered as linked travel services.

In addition, the Royal Decree-law reinforces the obligation to provide pre-contractual information to the traveller. The organisers may not unilaterally alter the contract unless: (i) they have reserved that right in the contract, (ii) the alterations are insignificant and (iii) the traveller has been informed in a clear and understandable manner.

The Royal Decree-Law grants the traveler the power to terminate the contract when the proposed changes significantly alter the main characteristics of the travel services with the right to a refund of the price in 14 calendar days. The traveller in such instance may be required to pay an appropriate and justifiable termination fee to the organiser, which must meet certain criteria. On the other hand, it regulates under which conditions the price can be increased.

The organisers and retailers are required to provide a security for the refund of all payments made by or on behalf of the travellers insofar as the relevant services are not performed as a consequence of the organiser’s insolvency. If the carriage of passengers is included in the package travel contract, organisers shall also provide security for the travellers’ repatriation.

Reduction of speed limit for passenger and freight transport vehicles

The Spanish Official Gazette (“Boletín Oficial del Estado-BOE”) dated December 29th 2018 published the Royal Decree 1514/2018 of December 28th 2018, which amends the General Traffic Regulation (Royal Decree 1428/2003 of November 21st) and whose objective is to establish a reduction of speed limit of certain vehicles in traffic on public conventional roads.

This amendment is part of the strategy pursued by the administration which aims at minimizing the number of road accidents since, as underscored by the R.D. 1514/2018, two particularly important facts must be considered in addressing this issue: on the one hand, 75 % of accidents involving fatalities occur on these conventional roads, and, on the other hand, the inadequate speed is the concurrent cause of 20 % of the accidents.

One of the objectives of this amendment is, among others, to establish new speed limits for passenger and freight transport vehicles. More specifically, in the case of trucks, it standardizes the speed limit in 80 km/h on conventional roads, a limit common in most of the EU countries. The general limitation of 90 km/h for buses is due to the ongoing law accident rate of these vehicles, however, those that are not equipped with seat belts will not be allowed to excess 80 km/h.

The Royal Decree will come into force one month after its publication.