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The Central Maritime Court

The sea has traditionally been the main means of transport, especially in the commercial field. Since ancient times, man has tried to dominate it, but  has not always be successful in said task. Witnesses are the numerous shipwrecks spread in the coasts around the world. Therefore we have been obliged to regulate the findings of these wrecks and the aid or rescue that other navigators provided to those who were in trouble. The lives and shipments saved demanded rewards that, with greater or lesser success, were progressively incorporated in various regulations. Maritime law has regulated these or similar activities since time immemorial,  but has done so in different ways. In fact, over time the concept of salvage itself has evolved, and there have also been different approaches as to whether salvage is a matter of criminal or commercial law, public or private. And in this situation, it is not surprising that the courts responsible for deciding salvage issues, as well as the higher instances to appeal the decisions of those courts, have been diverse.

In Spain the Tribunal Maritimo Central (Central Maritime Court) was created by Law  60/1962 that regulated maritime aids, salvages, findings and extractions and  evolved from old norms and institutions such as the Libro del Consulado de la Mar (XVth century Maritime Law codex) or from the traditional ordinances of the Armada, the Spanish Navy from last centuries. This special Court   has been throughout the last half century the public entity in Spain  in charge of «facilitating modest seafarers assistance, compensation of the expenses incurred and collection of rewards so that, without the need to resort to long and expensive litigation, maritime salvages are stimulated for the benefit of the national economy ”, that is, it has been dedicated to determining whether assistance at sea is aid , salvages or trailers, and determine the corresponding remuneration. Together with the permanent maritime courts, the Central Maritime Court has developed an invaluable work to bring order and wisdom in the complicated world of maritime rescue.

The Central Maritime Court after more than 50 years experience  has been characterized by, technical and legal quality of its resolutions, the agility and speed of its processes, the establishment of fair rescuers and rewards  in attention to the risk of the operations.

Now, the new Law 14/2014 of Maritime Navigation, its second additional provision, contemplates the creation of the Maritime Arbitration Council within the Navy and the restructuring of the Central Maritime Court and the permanent maritime courts. The Central Maritime Court as such disappears, although it will continue operating temporarily until the regulation on the of Maritime Arbitration Council which, in some way, will take over from the Central Maritime Court enters into force. In any case it is important to remark that the interested parties always can decide to go to these decision-making bodies of the Navy or to the ordinary civil jurisdiction (which are always applicable in case of discrepancy between the parties).

Carlos Espinosa  – Solicitor & Tax Adviser

+34 627 41 32 01