It is well known that ports worldwide operate in accordance with strict rules, often conceived by the port themselves, and it is usual for these rules to be streamlined with the national maritime code of that particular country. In UAE ports, there is more sophisticated legal structure in place.
Fichte & Co have recently had the occasion to compare UAE legislation with foreign legislation on the point following instructions received by one of the UAE major ports in advising them on their potential liability as a marine service provider for major incidents which may take place within the port limits; in particular, oil spills. The question has arisen whether the port should be the marine services provider or such services should be provided by a private entity (licensed by the port). It is usual in these situations to conclude a marine service agreement between the port and its customers. However, if such a marine service agreement were established, the port itself would be liable for any oil spills in accordance with the Maritime Code, the Environment Code and various international conventions. Obviously, this is a huge risk for any port handling oil.
It seems however that UAE port laws allow for a greater protection of the port, thereby making the set-up of a private entity redundant, and that the port laws take precedence over any federal codes.
The question thus arises, ‘what prevails – federal or local law; international conventions or national laws?’ Fichte & Co continues to advise on whether a marine service agreement can be established without burdening the port with liability of potential oil spills.