On 1 January 2020 the permissible limit of sulphur in fuel oil used on vessels will be reduced from 3.5% to 0.5% pursuant to the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO's) 2020 regulations (known as 'IMO 2020') in order to improve air quality and protect the environment. With less than one month until the regulations enter into force, how prepared is Brazil for IMO 2020?
The Ministry of Infrastructure recently announced a new programme to encourage maritime cabotage. To achieve this aim, the programme will introduce measures to increase the volume of goods transported by cabotage, increase the number of cabotage vessels, increase the competitiveness of Brazilian shipping companies and develop Brazil's shipbuilding industry.
In March 2019 the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea's Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf partially approved Brazil's April 2015 southern margin request, which will allow Brazil to add 170,000km2 to its continental shelf in addition to its exclusive economic zone. As a result, Brazil will be able to exercise its sovereign rights for the exploitation of mineral resources and other non-living seabed resources in its expanded maritime territory.
A recent Sao Paulo State Appellate Court case concerned a carriage of goods by sea from Port Everglades (United States) to the port of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). The court's decision sets an important precedent in recognising that subrogation cannot be used to reinstate a right that no longer applies where a rights holder fails to observe a legal requirement. Therefore, subrogated insurers assume the same rights and limitations as assureds.
Bills of lading generally contain a provision that limits carriers' liability to a certain extent if goods are lost or damaged or other claims arise. Such limitation provisions can be used when a merchant fails to declare the cargo's value (which is often the case). A court recently confirmed that if a contracting party can declare its cargo's value in its bill of lading but chooses not to, the limitation of liability clause provided therein can be applied.
The Brazilian courts recently confirmed that unpaid debts for bunkers supplied to vessels are considered claims with a privileged nature under Brazilian law and thereby permit creditors to obtain security for any debts by arresting vessels in Brazilian ports. This case is one of the first precedents dealing with the application of the Liens Convention 1926 and grants legal safety for bunker suppliers and all other parties that hold credits of a privileged nature under Brazilian law.
In 2016 the International Maritime Organisation approved a reduction of the maximum amount of sulphur that can be contained in ships' fuel oil by January 2020. The National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels recently initiated a public hearing to obtain feedback on its proposal to amend Resolution 52/2010 in order to comply with the new requirements. Some parties expressed concerns about the changes, mainly due to the increase in costs in an already difficult economic environment.
Two members of Parliament recently presented a draft law that would mandate the installation of additional passive safety equipment for new boat engines and factory outlets. The draft law builds on previous legislation which sought to reduce the large number of serious accidents between vessels and the North Region's riverside inhabitants. Legislators await a congressional order to define the committees that will analyse the draft law and its procedural arrangements.
The National Agency for Waterway Transportation recently published Resolution 6,235, approving the agency's regulatory agenda for the 2018-2019 biennium. The regulatory agenda aims to inform the regulated sector and society at large about the agency's main regulatory issues for the biennium.
A court recently confirmed the Brazilian courts' lack of jurisdiction to judge a claim brought by a foreign bunker supplier against a foreign shipowner and operator seeking arrest of the debtor's vessel while calling at a Brazilian port. The decision sets an important precedent and should help to prevent ungrounded arrest claims, as it clarifies that it is paramount to carefully analyse all of the risks involving an arrest lawsuit in Brazil before taking any action in order to avoid unnecessary exposure.
The Sixth Civil Chamber of the Rio de Janeiro State Court of Appeals recently decided that a protection and indemnity (P&I) club was not liable for an associate shipowner's debts. In its decision, the court distinguished the P&I club from insurers operating in the Brazilian insurance market. This decision is paramount because it creates an important court precedent regarding P&I clubs' liability for the damages caused to third parties by their associates.
The 2nd Section of the Superior Court of Justice has unified the court's understanding of the applicable time bar for a subrogated insurer to pursue a claim for damages which occurred during maritime transport. This is a highly important precedent, as it has resolved a long-standing divergence between the Brazilian courts.
The National Agency for Waterway Transportation recently published Normative Resolution 18, regulating the rights and duties of users, intermediary agents and companies operating in offshore and port support, cabotage and deep-sea navigation and establishing administrative infractions. The normative has ultimately introduced innovations into this field – for example, regarding the regulation of intermediary agents and refusals to provide maritime transport services.
The Superior Court of Justice has reversed previous Sao Paulo State Court rulings and recognised the validity of foreign ship mortgages in Brazil. Respecting the acts of sovereignty of countries where vessels are registered, the court highlighted the economic importance of acknowledging ship mortgages of foreign states and emphasised that large vessels must be registered in their flag states and that these registrations have extraterritorial effects.
Federal law provides that all vessels registered before Brazil's port captaincies must buy the mandatory insurance for personal injury caused by vessels or their cargo. However, such insurance has been discontinued due to a lack of insurers willing to underwrite the risks involved. Now, after a number of passenger fatalities in recent accidents, industry players and the government are being called on to ensure that policies are offered which soften the burden borne by victims and their families.
The Ministry of Labour recently published Ordinance 790, amending Regulatory Standard 34 on Working and Environmental Conditions in the Shipbuilding and Ship Repair Industry. The amendments also regulate ship demolition activities. According to the Ministry of Labour, this is because the Brazilian fleet is aging and thus the demand for ship demolition activities may increase.
A majority of the Supreme Court recently ruled that the rules and international treaties limiting the liability of passenger airline carriers – in particular, the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions – prevail over the Consumer Protection Code. Among other things, this decision means that the value of compensation for lost luggage will be limited to the threshold set out in Article 22 of the Warsaw Convention and the amendments made by subsequent international agreements.
Legislative Bill 5018/2016, which is pending approval in the House of Representatives, requires vessels to use an automatic system to measure fuel during navigation. The bill seeks to increase the safety of navigation by preventing vessels from beginning their journeys using precarious methods to assess the quantity of fuel, which can result in fuel exhaustion – a serious risk for the safety of passengers and crew and navigation of the vessel.
Brazil's National Industry Confederation recently asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to terminate the maritime transport agreement between Brazil and Chile. A representative from the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the government's decision on this matter will consider the position of not only the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but also the Ministry of Transport, Ports and Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services.
The Sao Paulo Court of Appeals recently upheld a first-instance decision that, by virtue of subrogation, the insurer was subject to all of the insured's ancillary rights and obligations, including the carriage contract's arbitration clause. The decision sets an important precedent and reinforces the need for insurers to assess all aspects and limits of an underlying carriage contract entered into by the insured before issuing insurance cover.