On 4 April 2019 the Chamber of Representatives enacted the new Maritime Code. The act must now be published in the Official State Gazette and will come into effect on the first day of the month one year after its publication.

The new code will replace – to a large extent, but not completely – numerous provisions in several existing codes.

The new code is over 470 pages long and consequently cannot be explained in a few lines.

At present, it suffices to highlight some of the major changes that will be introduced in relation to existing legislation:

  • The regime for liens and mortgages on seagoing vessels will change completely: Belgium will withdraw from certain international conventions and hold a national regime for liens and mortgages.
  • The in rem liability of shipowners for acts, emissions or faults committed by masters or other crew members will be altered.
  • The provisions on charterparties and contracts of affreightment will change.
  • Belgian law will be mandatory on all contracts of carriage to and from Belgium.
  • The Hague-Visby Rules (as implemented) are applicable on all forms of carriage by sea, as well as on seaway bills.
  • The carriage on deck of containers may be considered acceptable under the Hague-Visby rules as implemented.
  • The limitation of liability for wreck removal will no longer be possible.
  • In interior waterway navigation, the prohibition for non-cost covering carriage will be abolished.
  • In case of accidents, not only the master of a seagoing vessel, but also its manager as per the international safety management code, will incur obligations and liabilities.

Drafting the act took more than 10 years of preparation and some aspects, especially those regarding carriage on interior waterways, remain to be addressed in additional legislation.

For further information on this topic please contact André Kegels at Kegels & Co by telephone (+32 3 257 1771) or email ([email protected]). The Kegels & Co website can be accessed at www.kegels-co.com.