The extraordinary growth of the maritime industry in the Middle East is due to the investment into technology, infrastructure and support services, and the rapidly expanding growth of the industry has led to multiple international challenges, as well as a high volume of complex trans-border agreements. The significant increase in the maritime industry has seen the rise in the demand for services that supports the execution of many agreements. The maritime cluster initiative which was led by the Dubai Maritime City Authority, and with the support of the Government of Dubai, has led to the formation of the Emirates Maritime Arbitration Center (the EMAC). The establishment of EMAC was essential in providing the maritime industry with alternative dispute resolution services that were required in the Middle East. It aims to provide a central alternative dispute resolution facility in the UAE where the jurisdiction provides either civil law or common law options. The centre was established for the purpose of offering the maritime industry a neutral seat for arbitration. EMAC’s rules are based on the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules 2010 but it contains new approaches and methods in hopes of bringing a faster and cheaper arbitration process compared to the current maritime arbitration centres.
The center operates on independence and impartiality and has its own set of Arbitration and Mediation Rules. EMAC’s services and rules are progressive, modern and cost-effective to ultimately facilitate impartial and fair dispute processes.
1. The rules are composed to permit the arbitration to be established and run with minimal involvement by EMAC.
2. The parties may agree on the seat of arbitration and the venue, however in the instance where no agreement is present, the default seat will take place in the Dubai International Financial Center with the DIFC Courts as the curial courts.
3. The Rules permit the use of electronic means to conduct the arbitration process if the parties wish to.
4. The Rules accommodate small claims and contain fast track arbitration provisions to facilitate easy and fast arbitration processes.
5. The Rules provide emergency arbitration, as well as multiple-party arbitration.
EMAC Arbitration and Mediation Rules provide information on the admission criteria for the arbitration and mediation panels, including forms for those wishing to register as an arbitrator or mediator, and more information can be accessed on EMAC’s website. The website also contains fee and cost structures for the arbitration and mediation processes and involves registration and institutional administrative fees that vary according to the dispute value. The fees for arbitrators and mediators are determined on an hourly basis and online payments will be made available in due course.
Filing and case management can be completed online, and EMAC plans to create a completely online platform in due time in regard to case management which will include the initial review of documents filed and whether or not they meet the filing criteria, and scheduling of hearings and enabling online meetings if applicable.
EMAC contains a number of modern initiatives and the articles of the arbitration rules are modelled after the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules 2010 that comply with international dispute resolutions. Article 12of the EMAC rules state that emergency arbitration is possible in cases of exceptional urgency. At any point prior to the formation of the arbitral tribunal, any party may apply to appoint an immediate temporary sole arbitrator to conduct an emergency proceeding. If the application is granted, the Executive Committee appoints a temporary arbitrator to conduct the emergency proceedings in any manner it determines appropriate, taking into account the:
• Nature of the emergency proceedings.
• Claim and reasons for emergency relief.
• Further submission of the parties
The temporary arbitrator may hold any hearing and shall decide on the claim for emergency relief, order or award in all cases no longer than 14 days following its appointment. Any relief order or award made by the temporary arbitrator may be subsequently confirmed, varied, discharged or revoked in whole or in part by the arbitral tribunal for the main proceedings.
Fast-tracking any arbitration is available under Article 50 and arbitrators can opt to proceed on a document only basis under Article 18. Fast-tracking is immediately applied for any case that is below UAE Dirhams seven million (AED 7,000,000) however, parties may agree to select the rules on fast-tracking an arbitration in regard to the amount exceeding 7 million provided that they make their selection before an arbitral tribunal is appointed, otherwise there will be a need of approval from the tribunal.
Article 28 gives power to tribunals to issue interim measures, including injunctions, dispositions and restraining orders. Under this, orders can be specifically be made to sell perishable assets and for escrow accounts, for example. Article 36 states that a tribunal must issue the final award 90 days from when a hearing is closed to ensure that awards are rendered within a reasonable time.
If the arbitration seats are held in DIFC, EMAC awards by the DIFC Courts can be enforced either in the Dubai Courts or in any other Emirate courts without review, any New York Convention signatory state, or regionally under bilateral or multilateral treaties. Thus, ensuring timely and cost-effective determination of disputes with outcomes that can be enforced regionally and internationally.
The EMAC Mediation Rules state that if the parties fail to appoint a mediator, EMAC can do so and the parties have the right to accept or reject such an appointment within one (1) week under Article 6 with the intention that the mediation takes place swiftly. The mediator is tasked with completing the work given within 30 days from the date the task is assigned as stated in Article 8, although the extension of the task to up to 90 days is allowed under Article 9. If the parties reach a settlement, then it can be registered in writing in the form of an arbitration award, in which case the mediator may act as an arbitrator under Article 11. This will allow the settlements to be enforced as arbitral awards without requiring new proceedings.
EMAC aims to provide swift and easy modern dispute resolutions of the maritime industry by adopting the best international practices, as well as light case management. Parties should be encouraged by the content of the EMAC rules, EMAC’s seat in the DIFC and access to the DIFC courts’ enforcement mechanisms.