How is maritime law applied in the Emirates? – Maritime/Shipping

Commercial maritime law in the United Arab Emirates is regulated and enforced by Federal Law No. 26 of 1981 (Shipping code).

A brief overview of some key features of the Maritime Code is presented below, which have implications for maritime trade and commerce.

Vessel registration

Vessels with the nationality of the United Arab Emirates must be registered with the Department of Maritime Inspection under Article 18. There are exceptions to this requirement, with fishing boats, pleasure boats or boats used in trade, of a tonnage of less than 10 tons, not required to register with the authority.

Operating a vessel flying the flag of the United Arab Emirates but not registered under the Maritime Code is punishable by imprisonment of up to 1 year or a fine of up to AED 50,000 or both. The ship can also be confiscated under article 44.

Freight contracts and losses

The Maritime Code regulates the contract of goods on maritime transport. Article 256/1 defines a maritime carriage contract as follows.

A maritime transport contract is a contract by which the carrier undertakes to transport goods from one port to another in return for a freight which the shipper is obliged to pay.

This contract is evidenced by a bill of lading which must contain the details of the carrier, shipper and consignee, the goods shipped, the port of departure and arrival, the name and nationality of the ship, the transport costs and the method of calculation, place and date of issue of the invoice, number of copies and signatures of the captain and shipper.

The carrier is liable for loss or damage to the goods from the time of receipt of the goods until delivery (with the exceptions provided for in article 275). That said, the carrier’s liability is limited to AED 10,000 for each package or AED 30 for each kilogram of the goods weight, whichever is greater, unless the parties have agreed on a liability limit. higher under article 276/4 of the Maritime Code. Coded.

Ship collision

The failure of one of the vessels resulting in a collision would result in the defaulting vessel compensating the non-defaulting vessel for the damage caused under Article 320 of the Maritime Code.

However, article 321/1 specifies that in the event of failure of several parties, the responsibility of each ship would be estimated on the basis of the proportion of failure of the failing ships.

Arrest of the vessel

A vessel may be arrested by order of the competent civil court solely for the satisfaction of maritime debt.

A maritime debt has been defined in Article 115 of the Maritime Code as a claim on a right resulting from one of the following causes:

(a) Damage caused by the vessel due to collision or otherwise

(b) Loss of life or personal injury caused by the vessel and resulting from the use of it.

c) Assistance and rescue.

(d) Contracts relating to the use or operation of the vessel under a charter party or otherwise

(e) Contracts for the carriage of goods under a charter party, bill of lading or other documents.

(f) Loss of or damage to property or personal effects carried on board the vessel

(g) General average.

(h) Towing or steering the vessel.

i) Supplies of products or equipment necessary for the use or maintenance of the vessel, regardless of where the supply is made.

j) Construction, repair or fitting out of the vessel and docking costs.

(k) Sums expended by the master, shippers, charterers or agents on behalf of the vessel or on behalf of its owner.

(l) Salaries of master, officers and crew and other persons working on board the ship under a maritime labor contract.

(m) A dispute as to the ownership of the ship

(n) A dispute relating to the co-ownership of the vessel, or to its possession or use, or to the right to profits arising from its use.

(o) A maritime mortgage

The stop order may be canceled by the civil court if a guarantee or any other security sufficient to satisfy the debt is presented to the court under article 118/2 of the maritime code. That said, when the maritime debts relate to the dispute of ownership, co-ownership, possession, use or right to benefits resulting from the use of the ship, the seizure order cannot be canceled. A stopped vessel is prohibited from sailing.


Maritime jurisprudence is constantly evolving as the UAE becomes one of the largest locations for maritime operations and follows international best practices and standards to govern maritime affairs.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.