From pearl-diving, ocean commerce and traditional dhow construction to, more recently, the building of the world’s largest man-made harbour in the form of Jebel Ali Port opened in 1979, it was only a matter of time before the UAE was required to house a world-leading maritime arbitration centre. It followed that the Emirates Maritime Arbitration Centre (“EMAC”) was established, commencing its operations in September 2016.

EMAC is open to all users who choose to resolve their disputes in line with its ‘Rules’. EMAC’s Rules are tailor made for the maritime industry’s needs and have some similarities with the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules 2010. Having said this, the EMAC Rules seek to offer an attractive combination of popular existing rules from other familiar arbitral institutions and new and improved approaches and methods. The ultimate aim of the EMAC Rules was to bring a fresh touch to maritime arbitration and a more efficient and cost-effective arbitration process than the current maritime arbitration centres in other established maritime hubs.

Some of the distinguishing features of EMAC are:

The Rules are drafted to allow the arbitration to be set up and run with minimal involvement by the Tribunal giving more power to the parties to manage the process (the “light touch” approach).

The parties may agree on the seat of arbitration and the venue; however in the absence of agreement the default seat will be the Dubai International Financial Centre, with the DIFC Courts applying English law.

The Rules provide for multi-party arbitration, joinder, and emergency arbitration.

Arbitrators will have flexibility in deciding whether, given the value of a claim, it should be referred to fast-track arbitration which will be done in the most cost and time efficient way.

Filing for arbitration may be done electronically by means of an automated portal in order to save cost and time.

Provisions for fast-track arbitration and rules for dealing with small claims.

EMAC offers a natural choice for the shipping industry and associated industries to settle their disputes through specialised arbitration in the region. EMAC’s structure is designed to provide services to local, regional and international shipping communities. Dubai and the UAE expect that in time EMAC will take its place alongside the established centres for maritime arbitration.

Written by Omar Omar and Laila Al Shentenawi at Al Tamimi & Company.