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Saudi regulatory changes benefit maritime industry

Seatrade Maritime Coverage Cloud team talks to Omar Omar, Partner, Head of Transport & Insurance at Al Tamimi & Company about the key legal developments in Saudi Arabia including New Companies' law and its benefits for the maritime sector.

What do you see as the key legal developments in Saudi to encourage the growth of the shipping and maritime industries?

There are many. Just to name a few: A very modern and up to date commercial maritime code, the agency law, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia's subscribes to many IMO regulations and the move forward to upgrade and update all the regulations and laws related to the shipping sector. Specifically, coupling that with a lot of laws also related to the logistics and the free zones, which are an integral part of the shipping industry.

Does Saudi Arabia’s New Companies’ law have many benefits to the maritime sector?

Definitely a step in the right direction. And it really gives clarity of vision to those investors who want to come and have KSA as a base for their relations. A very important thing in the regulations is where KSA have introduced the bareboat charter registry, which allows dual-flagging for vessels and allows vessel owners to come and be registered as bareboat charters, which is a very important development in the right direction for KSA.

Are government regulations in the Middle East keeping pace with rapid digitalisation and other changes in working practices?

I mean, who can? It's a very, very fast-moving industry in all aspects. But I can see there are a lot of laws on the pipeline to keep up with the requirements of digitalization and modernization of logistics systems in specific and making sure that in and out of cargo, and vessels from ports, transit, operation, warehousing, and all related industries are up to the modern speed of digitalization. It will always be ahead of us, but they are definitely on the right ground, they are definitely moving in the right place.

Could you give details of your firm’s legal network in Saudi Arabia and say what difficulties the sheer size of the kingdom presents to adequate coverage?

Al Tamimi, a company law firm is the largest in the Middle East, we are the largest law firm in KSA number wise, we have three offices in Riyadh and Jeddah and Al Khobar, our team dedicated for shipping is made of seven lawyers distributed between Jeddah and Al Khobar. It's a lot to do, it's a huge country with a lot of potential. So actually managing to grasp all the opportunities applied to all the requirements is a challenge, and we cannot expand fast enough, actually to cope with the ongoing developments within KSA, which is a good problem to have on the long run.

We're happy actually, of the Saudization initiative also, because that allows us to train and develop a much needed bilingual shipping lawyers across the Middle East. KSA is the prime example.

What does Maritime Law involve and what areas are covered?

It’s a niche area. It's a challenging, exciting part of law. It is something which will take you in all aspects of the law companies law, chartering contracts, ports, travelling, the pressure of analyzing the law itself and coming up with creative solutions, especially in an area where this is still developing and just now becoming a specialized area to look at.

It's always exciting to become a shipping lawyer. Again, it's been for a very long time, an area where international law firms are taking the monopoly on it. Creating bilingual professional shipping lawyer is a beautiful task by itself. And I'm happy that to say that almost all international firms around are all ex-Tamimi. They're all the product of bilingual lawyers coming from from this firm. And it gives a better way of thinking for those lawyers to grow and be part of their governments and be part of the transport ministries, the logistics ministries, the free zones ministries, it gives a better thinking mechanism for those local abilities to come and say, this is who we are, this is the way we think. And we can actually drive a vision for our countries as bilingual shipping lawyers.

What are the opportunities for women in maritime law?

We are proud to be the first firm to graduate a female Saudi lawyer. And now we have almost 50-50 female - male lawyers. It's a bit challenging, taking the social background to have shipping female lawyers to go and jump over vessels take a boat, fight with vessel arrests, but honestly, the upcoming lawyers, they're up to it, and they are enthusiastic, and they want to be part of it. And we're more than welcoming for the female side or the woman inputs to come and be part of the shipping industry.

Why is it important to be at Saudi Maritime Congress?

Us being in this industry, we do look forward for these opportunities to get together and do all the things we are too busy to do, which is mingle. “Hi, how’s it going? What's going on with you? What's going on with the other side?” All the law firms are coming all the decision makers of the industry out there in one place. We catch up, we have coffee, we have lunches, we have dinners, and actually you always come up with a little bit of more maturity out of those events. Because you just learned more and understood more and you come out fresh with more ideas, which is a that's why these events are very, very important.

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