The world is facing unprecedented impacts from COVID-19. On 14th March 2020, as a result of the rapid spread of the virus in Spain, the Spanish Government declared a State of Emergency1 throughout Spanish territory. The impact this will have on people, businesses and supply chains is difficult to predict.

The Marine Team at Clyde & Co in Madrid has been monitoring the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on the marine transport and shipping sectors. This newsletter provides a brief update on recent orders and official announcements issued by the Spanish Government and maritime institutions, including measures and recommendations aimed at mitigating the impact of this unprecedented situation.

Measures to minimize the Effects of the Health Emergency caused by COVID-19 in the Marine Transport and Shipping Sectors

On 20th March 2020, the General Directorate of the Merchant Marine issued an official statement 2 covering some of the main measures taken, as follows:

Extension of the period of validity of qualification certificates and cards which are due to expire whilst the State of Emergency is in force 3.

The extension of the validity of administrative documentation while the State of Emergency is in force will enable ships and their crews to provide maritime services in the ordinary way. The documentation concerned includes the following:

  • Professional cards and certificates issued to seafarers, (International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).
  • Certificates and documents issued for ships governed by international instruments of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the European Union.
  • Certificates and documents issued for vessels providing services under national regulations.

Extension of the validity periods of roll-ins and roll-outs 4. Masters will be required to submit a statement of responsibility, addressed to the Harbour Master of the corresponding port, either directly or through their consignees or representatives, by electronic means.

Suspension of inspections and surveys of both national and foreign vessels at Spanish ports 5.

Unscheduled inspections and surveys will only be carried out on national ships when these arise out of emergency situations which constitute a risk to maritime safety and the protection of the marine environment. Furthermore, only foreign ships presenting priority factors 6 would be subject to inspection.

A ban on the disembarkation of passengers.

It is expressly stated that roll on-roll off passenger ships and passenger ships operating regular services between ports in Italy 7 and Spain will not be allowed to call at Spanish Ports.

Where coastal trade is concerned, the Canary Islands 8 have banned the disembarkation of passengers from roll on-roll off ferries and passenger ships operating regular services from the mainland at their ports. It is important to point out that the principal shipping lines 9 operating in this area are allowing passengers to change their sailing dates.

The Balearic Islands 10 have authorised three daily sailings in each direction for scheduled roll on-roll off passenger services between the islands of Formentera and Ibiza. Passengers are required to show that their journey is essential and cannot be postponed or that it is in connection with an authorised activity 11.

Recreational sailing and yachting.

In general, sports and leisure activities, including saltwater activities, have been suspended 12. Private sailing is not allowed other than for purely professional purposes.

On the other hand, the validity periods of certificates relating to recreational sailing have been extended for the duration of the State of Emergency.

Mention should also be made of the previous Official Statement 13 issued by the General Directorate of the Merchant Marine on 19th March 2020 as a reminder of the requirement for applications to be made for any reductions in minimum safety crews in long-stay berths.

Under Article 16 of the Spanish Shipping Law, ships intending to make a long stay in a port in inactive 14 mode, must be authorised by the Port Authority. The Port Authority will request a binding report on security from the Harbour Master. In the event that an inactive long stay is required outside the port area, the Harbour Master will be entitled to require a guarantee to cover any potential damage.

It is essential to comply with the Harbour Master's requirement 15 for documentation, as the minimum number of safety crew will be determined by the characteristics of the vessel, its manoeuvrability and other evidence, bearing in mind that, because of the COVID-19 emergency, no inspections will be carried out.

Recommendations to minimise the Effects of the Health Crisis caused by COVID-19 in the Marine Transport and Shipping Sector

Even if some Spanish Ports, such as the Port of Algeciras 16 have maintained goods-related operations in full in order to preserve the supply chain in Spain, the reduction of container traffic is a reality and its economic consequences will be devastating.

In this respect, the Spanish State Ports Institution has prepared guidelines 17 containing recommendations to Ports Authorities designed to reduce the difficulties experienced by port-based communities as a result of COVID-19.

Included in these recommendations are deferred payment of port fees for the duration of the emergency - this has already been announced by, for example, the Port Authority of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria18, the reduction of payment periods to suppliers, the possibility of granting loans to port authorities and the implementation of measures to assist workers in the port system (i.e. loans and payroll advances)

We await the publication of measures and recommendations by other Associations and Institutions representing companies involved in pilot and tug assistance, ship agents and forwarders, which are likely to incur heavy losses in Spain.


1. Royal Decree 463/2020 of 14th March ("Royal Decree 463/2020"), declared a State of Emergency as a result of the health crisis caused by COVID-19.

2. Measures to minimise the effects of the health emergency caused by the COVID-19 virus in the Marine Transport and Shipping Sector. Official Statement of the General Directorate of Merchant Marine, dated 20th March 2020.

3. Order TMA/258/2020, 19th March, by which provisions are made regarding administrative titles and inspection activities by maritime administration under the protection of Royal Decree 463/2020. Resolution of 16th March 2020, of the Social Institute of the Navy adopting certain measures in response to the COVID-19 virus, in relation to specific benefits and services for the maritime-fishing sector.

4. Order TMA/258/2020, 19th March.

5. Order TMA/258/2020, 19th March.

6. Section II.2A of Annex I of Royal Decree 1737/2010, of 23rd December, governing the inspection of foreign ships in Spanish ports:

  • Ships which have been suspended or withdrawn from their class for safety reasons since the last inspection in the European Union or the Paris MOU area.
  • Ships smallject to a report or notification by another Member State.
  • Ships which cannot be identified in the inspection database.
  • Ships which:
  1. have been involved in a collision, grounding or stranding on their way to port.
  2. have been accused of an alleged violation of the provisions in force concerning the discharge of hazardous smallstances or effluents
  3. have been manoeuvred in an erratic or unsafe manner, without implementing management measures

7. Order PCM/216/2020, 12th March, publishing the Agreement of the Council of Ministers of 12th March 2020, establishing exceptional measures to limit the continued spread of COVID-19, by banning the entry of passenger ships from the Italian Republic and cruise ships of any origin bound for Spanish ports.

8. Order TMA/246/2020, 17th March, which establishes transport measures to be applied to connections between the peninsula and the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands.

9. For example, Naviera Armas.

10. Order TMA/247/2020, 17th March, establishing transport measures to be applied to connections between the peninsula and Balearic Islands.

11. Article 7.1 Royal Decree 463/2020.

12. Article 10.3 Royal Decree 463/2020.

13. Official Statement of the General Directorate of Merchant Marine, dated 19th March 2020 relating to long stays in port.

14. An inactive ship is one which reduces its operations in order to reduce costs, i.e. a reduction in the number of crew.

15. Requirements:

  • Proposed berthing area.
    • Characteristics of the vessel (dimensions, propulsion, general layout plan, etc.)
  • Mooring plan, taking into account prevailing wind and sea conditions and the worst predictable conditions.
  • Copy of the ship's Minimum Crew Document.
  • Safety crew proposed by the owner.
  • Description of safety and security systems to be maintained.
  • Copy of flag authorisations accepting the crew proposed by the ship-owner, with any conditions or limitations.
  • Copy of civil liability insurance covering any incident generated by the vessel during the period of stoppage, in particular relating to pollution, sinking, collision or damage to other vessels and repatriation. A copy of the P&I certificate is also required.
  • Copy of the statutory certificates of the units and of the Classification Society
  • A declaration from the company providing an assurance that all units will maintain their propulsion and government capacity independently during their stay in the Port, and will be able to leave the berth and leave the port safely if so required by the Port Authority.
  • Description of the weather conditions in which the assistance of tugs is necessary to carry out the departure manoeuvre and description of the procedure for leaving the port.
  • Contingency plan relating to the potential risks assessed during the stop and the procedures for action by the crews.


17. Spanish State Ports Institution's recommendations to Port Authorities regarding COVID-19 aimed at mitigating the impact of the disease on ports economies. Ministry for Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda 19th March 2020.


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.