The new government recently introduced new international trade regulations to redress the protective measures of the previous administration. The new regulations include the liberalisation of foreign currency exchange, the removal of import restrictions and the reduction of customs duties. The aim of these measures is to increase the volume of international trade to and from Argentina.
Argentina has not ratified Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and there is no domestic legislation concerning the use of exhaust gas cleaning systems. As a result, there is no prohibition on the use of open-loop scrubbers in territorial seas or internal waterways (eg, when manoeuvring inbound or outbound on the Paraná River or when a vessel is idling or carrying out a loading or discharging operation at a port).
Further to a National Cabinet meeting on 16 March 2020, a new regulation was introduced which prohibits entry into Argentina by sea, air or land for 15 calendar days by non-resident foreign nationals; this timeframe may be extended or lifted by the government as deemed appropriate. Given the uncertainty about the duration of these measures, it remains to be seen what effect they will have on the maritime industry.
The question of whether foreign-flagged ships involved in international trade are subject to value added tax (VAT) when supplying bunkers in Argentina is frequently posed. If a vessel is supplied bunkers in one Argentine port and subsequently calls to another Argentine port before proceeding overseas, this is generally considered to be cabotage and is therefore subject to VAT.
Local authorities have increasingly exercised their power to enforce local regulations concerning waste disposal and broadened the responsibility of vessels in this regard. It has become common practice for local authorities to request the compulsory discharge of waste from vessels, even if this action appears to go against commonly accepted international law that is binding in Argentina.
Ships calling at ports on the Parana river are increasingly being asked to submit a pest control certificate to the Health Authority. Failure to comply with this request could require the ship to be fumigated. However, this can be avoided if a ship can prove that it has been fumigated by a competent authority or if it has been exempted from such operation in the past six months and obtained a certificate from the health authorities of a port officially authorised for this purpose.
Under the new Regulation 693-E/2017, the system for checking the cargo-worthiness of holds and tanks of ships and barges for the export of grains and their products and by-products will be compulsorily applied to all ships. In terms of compliance, ships that meet industrial standards should face no major issues and any attempt from surveyors or inspectors to reject such a ship could be challenged.
The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development recently issued Regulation 85-E/2017, under which vessels calling at Argentine ports must apply a chlorination process to their ballast water tanks to prevent the introduction of invasive aquatic species. However, the regulation posits only that chlorination must be done on arrival and does not clarify whether it should be conducted by the crew or a local entity. This has resulted in several operational issues.
The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development recently issued a new regulation addressing ballast water treatment for vessels arriving from foreign ports. Pursuant to Regulation 85-E/2017, vessels calling at Argentine ports must apply a chlorination process to their ballast tanks as a measure to prevent the introduction of invasive aquatic species that could affect river ecosystems in Argentina.
A new regulation was recently introduced to update rules governing safe under keel clearance for vessels navigating the Parana River. Further improvements are expected based on safety concerns, as the regulation is the result of friction between the pilotage industry and the government over the latter's aim to reduce pilots' fees. The regulation has been enacted for a limited time and invites all parties involved to suggest further amendments.
The majority of bulk carriers calling at Argentine ports must clean their holds after discharging and before loading the next cargo. Government inspection is compulsory and inspectors must board all vessels loading grain in Argentina. Unfortunately, inspections have generally caused delays for vessels and port terminals and led to circumstances that are similar to the detention of a vessel.
Many companies allow seafarers to sail with their family on board, and these are considered passengers under Argentine legislation. An issue arises when a vessel is in transit and the master receives instructions to proceed to a port which requires an entry visa for passengers, but not crew. This situation may result in undesirable circumstances for seafarers and their family members.
A new Civil and Commercial Code recently entered into force. It makes improvements to Argentina's legal framework, but is not so straightforward from a transport and shipping law perspective. The code tackles contractual issues only. Any other liability raised by a non-contractual source will remain exclusively governed by the Navigation Act and corresponding international treaties.
The use of tugs is not compulsory for berthing or unberthing at San Lorenzo port. However, most instances of vessels running aground occur at this port. When grounding occurs, the navigation channel may be closed, delaying vessels that are queuing to load. Given the increase in vessels calling at San Lorenzo, it is expected that the Maritime Authority will review existing legislation in that regard.
The Maritime Labour Convention 2006 is set to come into force in Argentina in May – 12 months after its ratification. It will add a new component to existing legislation in the sector. The convention entered into force in 2013 and consolidates existing International Labour Organisation conventions. Further, it constitutes one of the main international maritime instruments.