What You Need To Know About Shipping Law And Its Practice In The UAE?

Apr 7 01:59 2022 Hassan Mohsen Elhais Print This Article

The UAE comprises the Seven Emirates Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Um al Quwain and Ajman and follows a civil law system which strongly influenced from French, Roman and Egyptian Legal code.

The commercial maritime code of the UAE,Guest Posting namely, the Federal Law number 26 of 1981 is almost a forty years old law, having been affected in the UAE since 1981 i.e. just ten years post the formation of the UAE federation in itself. Today, the UAE constitutes a leading shipping center for the entire Middle East with its history in maritime trading dating back to the 1900s. The UAE has several seaports such as Jebel Ali, Mina Rashid, Zayed Port, Fujairah Port, Khalifa Port, amongst others. Of these, at least two ports have been listed within the top fifty container ports in the world by the World Shipping Council. Maritime trade accounts for almost ninety per cent of the world’s commerce, and the UAE boasts of twelve commercial trading ports separate from the oil ports, containing 310 berths and a cargo tonnage of 80 million tons.

The maritime code of the UAE comprises the ‘Federal Law number 26 of 1981 concerning commercial maritime law’ (‘Maritime Code’), its amendments and regulations. The maritime code has been in existence for close to four decades now, and its provisions have been enacted to advance the UAE’s public policy to promote domestic and foreign trade of the country, and also to establish and develop an efficient and modern fleet ensuring the country’s overall economic security, growth and interests. The maritime code covers vast topics ranging from registration of vessels, ownership, mortgage and insurance requirements to legal aspects of arrest; collision matters. It defines a ‘vessel’ as, ‘any structure normally operating or set for the purpose of operating, in the field of maritime navigation, regardless of its power, tonnage, or the purpose of navigation thereof. In the implementation of the provisions hereof, hovercrafts used for commercial or non-commercial purposes shall be deemed vessels. All appurtenances of the vessel necessary for the operation thereof shall be deemed parts of such vessel and of the same nature’ (Article 11). The maritime code for UAE has imbibed many provisions from the maritime law of Kuwait, which has in turn been influenced by international maritime laws. Currently, a new maritime code is in the pipelines and set to be implemented soon with new changes.

Registration of a Vessel:

A ‘Registration Bureau’ established under the Maritime Inspection Department at the Ministry of Communications that is responsible for maintaining both the ‘Special Register’ for the registration of vessels with the ports of the UAE, as well as a ‘General Register’ for registration of vessels at the Maritime inspection department. Article 13 of the Maritime code requires that ‘Every vessel must have a name, a nationality, a flag to fly and port of registry’. The application for registration of a vessel has to be submitted within thirty days from the date of completion of the construction or ownership of the vessel. Should the vessel be constructed or the ownership thereof acquired abroad, then, the said period for registration shall commence from the date of entry of the vessel into a UAE port.

Commercial Liability:

The maritime law imposes liability on the carrier for losses or damages incurred to the goods during the period starting from the receipt of the goods to the loading thereof at the ports until the goods are delivered at the discharge ports (Article 275). This liability can be exempted from the carrier only when the carrier is able to establish that the damage or destruction of the goods occurred on account of any of the following causes:

  • The sea unworthiness of the vessel provided that the carrier establishes that the obligations set forth in Article 272 are discharged.
  • Errors occurring in the navigation or management of the vessel by the master, crew, pilot or other maritime subordinates
  • Fire, unless same occur through an act or fault of the carrier
  • Sea dangers or other navigable waters, or dangers or incidents thereof.
  • Act of God.
  • War incidents.
  • Acts of public enemies.
  • Any detention or constraint by a power, State, people or judicial arrest.
  • Quarantine restrictions.
  • Any strikes or layoffs or any other obstacles causing discontinuance of the work in whole or in part.
  • Civil unrest and commotions.
  • Any act or omission on the part of the shipper or owner of goods, or the agent or representative thereof.
  • Lack in volume or weight or any other lack arising from a latent defect, the nature of the goods, or any defect inherent therein.
  • Improper packaging.
  • Improper marking of the goods.
  • Rescue or attempted rescue of persons or property at sea.
  • Latent defects not discoverable by ordinary examination.
  • Any deviation from a course during the rescue or the attempt to rescue persons or property at sea, or any other deviation for reasonable cause.
  • Any other cause not arising from the failure of the carrier, the persons working under him or the representative thereof.

The onus of proof shall, however, rest on the person alleging any of the above causes, and thus have to establish that there has been no failure on their part that has resulted in causing the damages or losses. Thus, in case of instances, as stated above, the shipper may set forth to prove that such losses or damages have arisen from the failure of the carrier or the persons working under him, in a manner not related to the navigation or management of the vessel.

Since the oil boom in the 1970’s, the UAE’s seaports have significantly contributed to the UAE gross domestic product, which has developed a strong maritime industry in the country. The UAE ports have constantly implemented definitive and proactive measures to ensure the welfare of personnel’s, seafarers and port operators. The UAE seaports are an essential sector driving both economic growth and development in the region. The country is now poised to establish a regional hub for cargoes, catering to the requirement of the industries in the wider Gulf, especially, Saudi Arabia.

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About Article Author

Hassan Mohsen Elhais
Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Dr. Hassan Elhais, along with his team of legal consultants and prominent local lawyers across the UAE, has made a name for himself as a renowned specialist in the fields of civil law, construction law, banking law, criminal law, family law, inheritance law, and arbitration.

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