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Mandatory coverage

What maritime risks must be covered under the law and what is the mandatory level of coverage?

Ships entering Portuguese ports or Portuguese waters must show evidence of insurance coverage up to the amounts established in the 1976 Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims and the 1996 Protocol.

Insurable risks and ships

What other risks are typically covered by marine insurance contracts concluded in your jurisdiction and what ships are insurable?

Labour accident coverage for crew members is mandatory. Hull and machinery insurance contracts are also common, although not mandatory. According to the type of activity, civil liability insurance may be mandatory (eg, for all activities including carriage of passengers by sea).

Subrogation rights

What is the legal regime governing marine insurers’ subrogation rights?

The subrogation regime is the same for all insurers. According to national law governing the contract of insurance, the insurer is legally subrogated into the rights of the assured in case an indemnity is paid to the assured, thus allowing the insurer to act against the third party responsible for the damages caused and indemnified. 

Marine accidents

Collision and pollution

What rules and procedures (under both domestic and international law) apply to the prevention of, liability for and remedy of:

(a) Collision?

Portugal is a party to the 1910 Brussels Convention for the unification of certain rules of law relating to collision between vessels; therefore, the rules stated in this convention will apply. Portugal is also a party to the 1952 Brussels Convention for the unification of certain rules relating to penal jurisdiction in matters of collision or other incidents of navigation, as well as the 1952 Brussels Convention on certain rules concerning civil jurisdiction in matters of collision.

(b) Oil pollution?

Portugal has adopted the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, as amended by the 1978 Protocol. Portugal has also adopted the 1992 Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damages, as well as the 1992 International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation of Oil Pollution Damage and the subsequent 2003 Protocol.

In 2006 Portugal adopted the 1990 International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation, and the 2000 protocol to this convention regarding preparedness, response and cooperation to pollution incidents by hazardous and noxious substances.

In 2015 Portugal adopted the 2001 Bunkers Convention.

(c) Other environmental damage caused by a ship?

Domestic law applies to pollution incidents caused by the ship in Portuguese ports.

Basically, the ship will be prevented from leaving the port until adequate security has been put forward, normally by the shipping agent acting on behalf of the shipowner or charterer. The final amount of the penalty to be paid will be established at the end of an investigation procedure and may include the amount of the penalty plus reimbursement of expenses incurred with the cleaning operations.


What is the legal regime governing salvage and general average?

Portugal is a party to the 1910 Brussels Convention for the unification of certain rules of law relating to assistance and salvage at sea.

In 1998, with the publication of Decree-Law 203/98, the rules applicable to salvage were updated in line with the new 1989 Salvage Convention. The criteria for fixing the salvage reward were updated and enlarged in a way similar to those referred to in the 1989 convention, with special compensation for situations where there is a threat of damage to the environment.

General average is governed by the old 1888 Commercial Code. Provisions on the bill of lading referring to the York-Antwerp rules are considered applicable under the rules of the bill of lading.

Places of refuge

What framework governs access to places of refuge for ships in distress?

National law determines that the various administrative bodies involved in maritime issues – including the port authorities, environmental institutes and the navy – will establish the necessary plans to be followed in a situation involving the need for a suitable place of refuge for ships in distress. The plans must be approved by the government.

Wreck removal

What rules and procedures apply to the removal of wrecks in your jurisdiction?

Wreck removal is governed by Decree-Law 64/2005 (15 March 2005). Within four days of the incident, the shipowner is requested to put up security that is considered adequate by the authorities, taking into account the particular characteristics of the ship. Security may be provided by way of a bank guarantee or by an insurance company, and must cover for possible damages until the removal of the ship. The owner is ordered to present to the harbourmaster for approval, within a maximum of 30 days after the incident, a suitable plan for the removal of the ship.

Under what circumstances can the authorities order removal of wreckage?

In cases where there is a risk of pollution, and if the owner does not comply with the harbourmaster’s orders, the authorities are allowed to choose the most suitable entity to remove the ship, bunkers or other polluting substances on board the ship. The owner or disponent owner of the ship is liable for the payment of expenses incurred.

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