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.
Chile is a party to the 1992 Civil Liability Convention. Approval of the amendments to the limitation amounts contained in the convention has been a positive step towards harmonisation with the international community. However, the adoption of the 1992 Fund Convention and the Supplementary Fund Protocol continue to be important missing parts of the international compensation regime, exposing Chile to the pollution contingency above its 89.7 million special drawing rights cap.
The Maritime Authority is authorised to initiate a maritime enquiry into accidents and losses involving vessels or persons in Chilean territorial waters, channels, lakes or navigable rivers to determine the causes and the parties responsible. When civil liability arising from a collision is sought at trial, the causes set out in the Maritime Authority's resolution are deemed to be true, unless proven otherwise.