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Bolstering the IMO’s legal maritime infrastructure for global benefit

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The maritime legal infrastructure of the IMO is well-established, however, maintaining a special focus on this key pillar of the industry will enable the organisation to continue elevating its global shipping stature.

The UAE recently participated in the 109th session of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Legal Committee meetings to discuss key issues related to the maritime sector and best international practices. This underlines the country’s commitment to serving the IMO’s objectives, developing the global maritime industry, and promoting its competitiveness. The country plays an active role in developing maritime strategies and policies, setting standards that regulate the industry’s operations, and strengthening its legislation. By collaborating with the IMO member states, the UAE aims to serve the shipping industry and facilitate the progress of international trade.

The country has assumed a great responsibility in this regard since it was first elected to the IMO Executive Council under Category B in 2017. The UAE has been re-elected to the IMO Executive Council three times in a row, and got the highest number of votes in the last IMO elections held in December 2021. This reflects the amount of confidence IMO members have in the UAE’s impact on the global maritime industry, as it has the necessary expertise required to catalyse its advancement.

The UAE’s participation in the IMO’s Legal Committee meetings adds value to the discussions as the Emirates contributes towards enhancing maritime safety and security regulations, as well as addressing issues of concern to the global maritime community. Every year, more than 25,000 ships from all over the world arrive at the UAE’s ports. As part of the IMO Executive Council, we aim to make use of our expertise in the industry to address challenges facing the sector, and satisfy its needs.

Reinforcing the quality of IMO’s legal system

Developing the legal system is one of the biggest challenges facing the maritime industry worldwide. The process takes years, which makes commercial laws in many cases outdated and not relevant to their context, as if they belong to another era. The UAE’s proposal to make international agreements and treaties flexible, self-updating, and amendable according to the current commercial and economic data is very important. It will greatly help ship owners and various other maritime industry players who suffer because of laws that are not updated as per the current developments.

Effective contributions towards the development of IMO maritime standards

  • Developing a flexible and dynamic mechanism capable of calculating the value of inflation when estimating civil liability within the Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (LLMC) Convention.
  • Preparing a comprehensive study on the fraudulent registration of ships.
  •  Forming a joint team from the Maritime Safety Committee, the Legal Committee, and the Facilitation Committee, to address the common issues related to Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS).
  •  Preparing guidelines for claims as per the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage 2001

All the proposals presented by the UAE to develop the IMO’s legal system will significantly enhance the capabilities of the maritime industry. Maritime laws constitute a decisive factor in encouraging investors and companies to pump capital into the sector. Additionally, there is a need to develop new legal systems that keep pace with the new and emerging technologies that are gradually being developed and used to modernise maritime infrastructure globally, including autonomous ships and artificial intelligence.

The Ordeal

The challenges seen on the legal side or the maritime industry are what one could say was expected for a region that has developed so rapidly as a maritime semi centre. With a number of challenges currently, the global maritime market felicitations, has not only hit traditional shipping, but it has also impacted the offshore industry. In particular, the last 5-10 years has led to pressure on fees and volume of work.

On top of this, an increasing and changing regulatory landscape, as well as a lack of specialised maritime courts with judges experienced in maritime matters has proved problematic. Add to this, an adherence to a relatively “old” maritime codes is troublesome in forwarding the regional sector and enhancing global stature. With a lack of availability of supportive finance in support of maritime assets, and increased cost of living, rounding out the main challenges which currently face the industry, the question remains – what can be achieved in the next 10 years to fine-tune the legal side of maritime?

Therefore, the IMO’s legal infrastructure will continue supporting the industry but with an ever-increasing challenge that faces most businesses in the region – increasing regulations, new(ish) risks like cyber security and increasing use of technology – will continue applying pressure, and this is nothing new. Maritime lawyers have always had different pressures, but it is the ones who adapt and embrace change that will enjoy the race and come out in poll position.

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