Warning on increased fine levels, capabilities for Argentine Coast Guard

Pander Liquidadores S.R.L of Buenos Aires, Argentina, has reported that the Argentine REGINAVE (the Maritime, River and Lake Navigation Regime) had been re-established this month with some significant changes.

These changes include the ability of the Argentine Coast Guard to impose fines on foreign seafarers and shipowners for breaches of maritime and environmental laws. Additionally the level of fines has increased significantly.

Fines are denoted in Unidades de Multa (UM – units of fine) and will be increased annually according to the rate of inflation. In addition the Argentinean authorities can now pursue fines for infringements of individual crewmembers against the owners.

REGINAVE is the main regulatory body concerning navigation in Argentina, relating to safety of individuals, vessels and the environment. It was formed in 1973. It is controlled by Prefectura Naval Argentina (PNA) (Coast Guards – CG), as Maritime Authority, who also investigate and, eventually, sanction any infringements.

The Argentine Coast Guard (ACG) previously had limited ability to sanction foreign seafarers or foreign shipowner for infringements. Normally, the CG, rather than being able to impose fines on foreign crewmembers, could only to notify their findings through diplomatic channels to the relevant flag’s administration and/or to the country which issued the license of the involved seafarer.

However, this month’s Decree 770/2019 enacted a new REGINAVE regime, which enters into force on November 22nd.

  1. Foreign seafarers and shipowners can now be fined by the ACG if they are found to be in breach of REGINAVE or other maritime and environmental regulations/laws.
  2. Fine amounts have increased. Before, each UM was worth ARS1.5 and the maximum fine amounted to 60,000 UM, equivalent to ARS90,000 (about US$1,500). Each UM has been raised to ARS10, with the maximum fine apparently 3m, equivalent to about US$500,000. The UM henceforth will be adjusted annually according to the rate of inflation.
  3. Within the old regime, the infringements endorsed to the seafarers were pursued personally against the seafarers; and those endorsed to the shipowners were pursued against the shipowners. Therefore, if the shipowners were not in infringement personally, then they had no administrative responsibility for their seafarers. Henceforth the Companies could be held liable for the infringements committed by their agents and by those who act on their behalf. Therefore, it is possible for the shipowners to be held liable, together with the seafarer who committed an infringement (or any other servant acting on Owners’ behalf).
  4. 4. The ACG is now entitled to detain any foreign vessel in which an infringement was committed, until any fine is paid or guaranteed by a National Individual or Entity which provides sufficient financial guarantee at the discretion of the CGs. At this stage in accordance with the new regulations the guarantee would need to be a personal bond, asset-backed security (e.g. cash) or sureties which prove to be sufficient financial security, at the discretion of the ACG. PandI Liquidadores said that it was uncertain at the present time whether LOUs would be accepted by the Maritime Authority.

The correspondent said that its comments were only preliminary as the new regulation has only just been published.