The UAE needs an updated legal framework to drive the maritime industry’s growth and ensure it contributes to the country’s long-term economic development plan.

It is understood that only 9 per cent of the UAE’s $75bn ($20.4bn) annual maritime revenue is retained within the country. The proposed update in existing legislation should help increase the percentage of revenues that are retained by the sector.

“We need the right legal environment in order to increase the retention rate, grow that money, and create opportunities for everyone,” Khamis Juma Buamim, chairman of Dubai Council for Marine and Maritime Industries, said during a forum hosted by the Emirates maritime Arbitration Council (Emac), which discussed the features that will likely be adopted by  the new set of legislations.

A survey undertaken by the committee tasked to update the existing law has found that the current law does not govern multiple maritime-related activities including ship agency, terminals, freight forwarding, ship building and repair, among others activities.

Baker McKenzie Habib al-Mulla was assigned in 2015 to update and modernise the existing maritime law. A committee has been formed to undertake the task. It has since launched the first phase of the process that has led to the development of a new draft law.

“The UAE martitime law needs to catch up with modern international conventions,” says Ashraf Elswefy, a consultant of Baker McKenzie Habib al-Mulla, who has conducted maritime law practice in the past 41 years, said. ““A new legislation is needed to create incentives to maximise investment in the maritime industry by including important activities such as ship ownership and management,” Elswefy added.

The areas that the new law will seek to include are:

  • Harmonising procedures and formalities between all ports in the UAE
  • Possible merger between common and civil law principles
  • Electronic bill of lading and other documents
  • Freight forwarders and non-vessel operating common carriers (NVOCCs)
  • Chamber of shipping
  • Classification societies
  • Dispute resolution

Other areas that the new law will focus on include marine structures such as oil rigs, platforms and barges, as well as measures related to marine environment and pollution, maritime safety and seafarer insurance, and the creation of an efficient national ship registry.

The UAE’s annual maritime revenue includes ship registry fees, insurance and reinsurance fees and financing, among others.