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Carriage of goods

International conventions

Is your jurisdiction party to any international conventions on the carriage of goods by sea? If so, does the relevant domestic implementing law contain any notable modifications (eg, extensions to the scope of application)?

The United Arab Emirates is not party to the Hague Rules 1924, the Hague-Visby Rules or the Hamburg Rules 1978. However, it has adopted laws similar to the Hague Rules and the Hague-Visby Rules in its legislation.

Carrier’s responsibility

What is the official extent of the carrier’s responsibility for goods?

 The carrier is responsible for the goods from their receipt at the loading port until their delivery to the entitled party at the discharge port.

Contractual limitation of liability

May parties contract out of any legal provisions governing cargo liability?

The UAE courts are generally hesitant to accept exclusions or limitations of liability.

Title to sue

Who has title to sue on a bill of lading?

The rightful holder of the bill of lading has title to sue. This can be:

  • the consignee named in the bill of lading;
  • the last endorsee if the bill of lading is made to order; or
  • the holder of the bill if the bill of lading is in favour of the holder.

Time bar

What is the time bar for cargo claims?

The time bar for parties to bring claims under maritime transport contracts is one year from the delivery of the goods or from when the goods should have been delivered.

Definition of ‘carrier’ and ‘goods’

How are ‘carrier’ and ‘goods’ defined in respect of cargo claims? Is there any especially pertinent case law on this issue?

There is no legal definition of ‘carrier’ or ‘goods’ under UAE law. As per Article 256 of the Commercial Maritime Law, the ‘carrier’ is the party that undertakes to carry goods from one port to another in consideration of a freight. Article 257 requires that the name and address of the carrier be identified in the bill of lading.

Defences available to carrier

Under what circumstances may the carrier rely on the perils of the sea defence? What other defences are available to the carrier?

The carrier’s liability is subject to exceptions similar to those listed in the Hague Rules.

Third parties

What legal protections and defences against cargo claims are available to agents of the carrier and other third parties (eg, Himalaya clauses)?

There are no provisions in the Maritime Law (Federal Law 26/1981) regarding the liability of agents of carriers or third parties. However, agents and third parties will generally be held liable only for their negligence.

Deviation from route

Under what circumstances is deviation from the agreed route allowed?

The carrier may deviate to rescue persons or property at sea or for any other reasonable cause.

Claims against shipper

What claims can the carrier pursue in respect of the shipper’s failure to meet its obligations?

The shipper is liable to the carrier for any inaccuracies in the data that it provides in the bill of lading concerning the goods. If the shipper loads hazardous, flammable or explosive goods, the carrier may remove or destroy them. Further, if the shipper loads the goods without declaring them, it is responsible for the damages and expenses caused.

Multimodal carriage of goods

How is multimodal carriage regulated in your jurisdiction?

At present, there is no legal regime for multimodal transport. Since 1991, the UAE courts have issued several judgments on multimodal transport which can be summarised as follows:

  • If the goods were carried by multimodal carriage (ie, sea, air or road carriage), the court considered the carriage to be of the highest value and longest distance and applied the UAE law that covered this kind of carriage.
  • If the goods were carried by two or more sea carriers, the original carrier that issued the bill of lading was generally liable before the shipper and consignee according to contractual liability and the last carrier was liable only based on the tort for potential negligence during the voyage.

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