Back to ‘REBECA’
A few months ago, the Canary Islands Special Register of Vessels (REBECA) turned 25. While it has been one of the greatest success stories of recent Spanish shipping policy, since it enabled the Spanish-flagged merchant fleet to continue to exist, in recent years a gradual loss of competitiveness has been observed, since vessels have been lost to other international registers (Malta, Madeira, etc.). Some of the reasons for this include its excessively strict labor legislation; failure to delegate to classification societies (unless the vessels were abroad and only for certain matters); and its scant human and material resources, together with an inadequate administrative structure.
The merchant fleet of a country, both flagged and controlled, tends to be relatively closely linked to its GDP and its port traffic, meaning that, apart from some qualified exceptions (shipping policy, maritime tradition and economic conditions), the largest fleets tend to be those of the richest, most traffic-heavy countries. Spain is among the exceptions: despite having the 5th largest GDP in the EU and the 4th highest port traffic volume, it is only ranked 13th and 14th in terms of controlled and flagged fleet, respectively, in the EU. Accordingly, the Spanish fleet, both flagged (almost all of which is registered on the REBECA) and controlled, does not reflect our economic weight in any way.
We have recently learned of a draft royal decree that will enable classification societies to carry out inspections of vessels in Spain on public holidays, at weekends or outside of normal working hours, which is excellent news. However, while very necessary, it is not sufficient to achieve the level of competitiveness sought, since the other deficiencies identified must also be urgently addressed, in order to take advantage of the undoubted benefits (attractive tax and labor incentives approved by the EU, the Paris MoU Whitelist, non-tax haven status, access to the international traffic and cabotage of the EU). That way we would probably manage to have all or the majority of the merchant fleet controlled by Spanish shipping companies (there are now more than 100 unregistered vessels) registered on the REBECA. While we don’t have a shipping tradition, we could certainly have a more adequate shipping policy.
Garrigues Transport & Shipping department
This article was published on Transporte XXI