Crash and Splash - UAE Shipping and Maritime Law
1. What is maritime collision?
A maritime collision is when there is physical contact between two vessels. This can be classified as one of three categories: i) fault of one vessel, ii) fault of both vessels, and iii) force majeure (event that cannot be controlled by the parties). The Law expressly states that, if a collision arises due to the error of one vessel the same will be solely liable for all and including all damages of cargo, belongings, monies or personal injury. If the collision has been cause by simultaneous negligence of both parties, where they failed to divert their course in due time, it will be considered as a both to blame collision. As a result both parties will be blamed and the liability will be assessed in proportion to the degree of error of each party.
2. If at the last minute we manage to avoid physical contact but some damages were caused to another vessel?
The Law states that where there is no collision, however the disrespect for the rules of navigation has been ignored by one or both vessels cause damage to another vessel, the collision rules and regulations shall apply to assess the negligence degree, the fault towards the other vessel. This means that per the Law the collision concept covers not only direct but also indirect collisions.
3. How will the court assess my fault?
The Maritime Code only imposes liability when there has been fault. It is therefore imperative to investigate whether there has been negligent conduct by one or both vessels and, if fault on both sides is found, the degree of blame will be between the vessels.
4. In case of collision before which court shall I file my claim?
It depends, as per the maritime code the claimant may file the action before the court where the defendant resides, where the vessel of the defendant is registered or located, where the sister vessel is sequestrated, where security has been offered or in the jurisdiction of the place where the collision occurred, if it took place within the ports, docks, or other domestic waters. However, please be advised that in the absence of any lawful excuse, the claim for compensation shall be filed within two years from the date of the incident collision.
5. Do I as a witness have duty of care towards the vessels involved in the incident?
Yes, the law states that every master must provide assistance and salvage to the other vessel, its crew/passengers as much as possible to the extent that they do not endanger or expose his own vessel or crew/passengers. If the master of the vessel abstains from providing assistance he can be charged with a sentence of imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years and a fine not exceeding AED 10,000. The operator or the owner of the vessel will be liable for the breach of this duty if the master is acting as per their express orders.
6. Will I be eligible for any compensation for the assistance and salvage?
Yes. You will have the right to claim for remuneration if you manage to achieve a satisfactory result with your actions, in any case the remuneration may not exceed the value of the salvaged goods. You will not be entitled to remuneration for the rescue of crew/passengers, however if you do rescue other lives you may have a share of the remuneration granted to the one whom in the same incident assisted the vessel and mange to salvage the vessel; its goods, and or crew/passengers.
7. What is categorized as loss?
The UAE does not have their own rules to estimate the total value of losses or damages arising from a collision. However, according to international maritime rules and practice, losses sustained by the colliding vessels, damage to cargo or freight, costs and expenses associated with the collision, and their interest should be taken into account for the purpose of compensation.
8. Who evaluates the extent of the collision?
The provisions of the Maritime Code provide very little guidance concerning the evaluation of fault. However, as a collision is often caused by a vessel violating navigation rules, therefore, the evaluation of fault should be approached in the light of the Regulations for Preventing of Collisions at Sea (the Collision Regulations), adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1972. The Collision Regulations are in place not only to prevent a collision but also to prevent the risk of collision. They regulations were introduced into the national law of all shipping communities in the world and are applicable to all vessels upon the high sea and all waters connected therewith. In UAE, all vessels, whom navigate in UAE water, must comply with the Collision Regulations. In any case where a master does not comply with the Collision Regulations, the master is liable to pay fine AED 1000.
9. If I dry-dock my vessel who is liable to pay?
The cost of dry-docking a vessel will be allowed as an element of collision damages, provided that the cause of damage for which the vessel is dry-docked and reasonable necessity of dry-docking is to make the vessel seaworthy proven by evidence. If the collision renders the vessel unseaworthy and requires a dry-docking to restore it back to seaworthiness the expenses and loss of time and loss of opportunity is allocated to the owner and the subsequent parties involved.
10. During the collision there is personal injury to member on the boat, who is liable to pay?
In the UAE the personal injury or death in a collision case will receive full verifiable damages. Assuming that the incident is both -to-blame collision, each vessel is jointly liable to the claimant. The amount that a vessel owner is obligated to pay death and personal injury claimant is included in the claim against the other vessel. If the amount the claimant receives is reduced because of the claimant's contributory fault, the ship-owner who pays the claim can include only that reduced amount in his claim against the other vessel.