How Maritime law applies in Collisions, salvage and wrecks in UAE ?


The Maritime laws in the UAE are governed by Federal Law No. 26 of 1981. This has not been well practised in the UAE, but the government of the UAE through the Federal Transport Authority (FTA) holds responsibility for all transportation transactions including the maritime sector has been working on the new Maritime law. Before proceeding further, let’s first discuss the ‘definition’ of the term ‘Maritime


Maritime law is not very common but very necessary for the shipping industry and all the activities carried out on the water. It is the body of laws, conventions and treaties that governs private maritime business and other nautical matters, including shipping or acts that occur on open water. Simply put it can be called the law of the sea.

Collisions, salvage and wrecks

  • Collision: Chapter 5 of the UAE Commercial Maritime Law No. 26 of 1981 deals with collisions.
  1. The Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims 1976.
  2. The Protocol 1996 on Limitation of Liability was amended in 2012.
  • Pollution

Bunker oil spill –The courts in the UEA were applying the Federal Law No. 24 of 1999 to protect and develop the environmental laws that do not provide the full/entire protection.  The UAE has ratified the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage 2001.

Oil pollution- The courts in the UAE refer to the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, in addition to the Environmental law (where it is applicable).

  • Salvage/general average

Article 327 to Article 339 of the UAE Maritime Commercial Law No. 26 of 1981 deals with salvage.

Article 340 to Article 365 of the Maritime Law deal with the general average.

The Maritime Code also recognises the salvor’s right to a reward. Articles 328 to 335 reflect the wording of Articles 2 to 8 of the 1910 Salvage Convention, which outlines that acts of salvage must have achieved a useful result giving rise to a claim for fair salvage, the amount of which is to be agreed upon by the parties. Failing this, the relevant civil code will determine the salvage award to be paid.

  • Wreck removal

The Maritime Laws in UAE, national circulars and federal decisions dealing with wreck removal.  A new law has been issued shortly to cover wreck removal and abandoned vessels.

  • Limitation of liability

The UAE has ratified both the 1976 Convention and the 1996 Protocol; therefore, the limitation of liability should be applied to any claim subject to limitation under the Convention and Protocol.

  • The limitation fun

There is an additional overlaying uncertainty when it comes to the establishment of the limitation fund under the UAE Judicial System, and the concept of constituting a limitation fund in the UAE is yet to be tested by the UAE legal and litigation systems.

Ship recycling

The country has not yet signed up to the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships 2009 (the Hong Kong Convention). There is no such provision in the UAE Code.


The Maritime Law in the UAE governs the ownership and use of vessels and it also governs any activities concerning the shipping practice. For every nation importing and exporting activities are major specifically for the Emirates wherein the geographical location of the country favours the maritime transport.

The country has approx. 20 seaports having an access to the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. The largest natural harbour is in Dubai. As a business owner involved in maritime transport in Dubai or the rest of the UAE. Our team of legal experts can provide you with requisite information concerning compliance with the Maritime Law.