Law 21,132 recently came into force and introduced new definitions of criminal offences in connection with marine biological resources, including the exploitation of banned natural resources or products extracted from the seabed and overfishing. In the case of spills that cause damage to hydro-biological resources, shipowners operating in Chile are now subject to greater contingency – not only in terms of administrative penalties, but also in connection with criminal liability.
The owners of a Chilean tugboat constituted a limitation fund to respond to damages suffered by different parties in connection with the sinking of a towed vessel following a salvage and towage operation. The plaintiffs opposed the fund's constitution, arguing that 'personal acts' committed by the tug's owners exempted them from the right to limit liability. The Supreme Court recently rejected the opposition; its decision should provide future certainty regarding the interpretation and scope of shipowners' personal acts.
Law 21,066 recently came into force and amended the Navigation Law in connection with the extraction of sunk or stranded vessels and harmful materials contained therein. The changes strengthen marine environment preservation and navigation safety, and the new faculties granted to the Maritime Authority in respect of ships or craft whose condition poses a risk or danger represent a positive change.
A limitation fund was recently constituted in the context of a salvage and towage operation. The plaintiffs opposed the fund's constitution, arguing that, under Chilean law, salvors are not entitled to limit their liability. The Valparaiso Second Civil Court rejected the opposition and upheld the limitation fund. The decision is one of the most relevant substantive decisions in this regard and should provide future certainty in the safeguarding salvors' rights to limit their liability.
A recent Valparaiso Court of Appeal decision restricts the application of criminal liability for spills that cause damage to hydro-biological resources to cases associated with malicious acts. Although the first-instance court held that the provision covered negligence, as the introduction of polluting agents could be the result of an accident, the Valparaiso Court of Appeal reversed that decision and held that, under the Constitution, no law establishes penalties if the conduct is not expressly described therein.