How to Register a Vessel in Dubai?

22 Apr 2022

The Strait of Hormuz provides a strategic position for the shipping industry in the Middle East, and Dubai is classified as being a natural location for a port thus providing the emirate with a long-established maritime tradition and has taken measurable steps to ensure the growth of their maritime capabilities by developing the Jebel Ali Port which is reported as the largest man-made harbour in the world. Dubai has further aspirations of attracting international companies involved in the maritime industry ranging from shipbuilding and repairs, insurance, ownership and brokerage and the emirate has initiated several strategies to support the growth of the industry.


Due to the maritime industry experiencing booming growth, there is certain legal legislation that is set in place to provide regulations and protection. There are several statutory sources that regulate the industry.

  • Federal Law Number 26 of 1981 (Commercial Maritime Law) provides legislation that governs ship registration and ship mortgages.
  • The Federal Transport Authority – Land and Maritime (FTA). The FTA regulates the UAE maritime affairs.
  • Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA). DMCA regulations are limited to the Emirate of Dubai.


Registering a vessel – General Overview

Commercial Maritime Law provides the basic laws that deal with the registration of vessels in the UAE, while the FTA is the UAE national ship registry.

Commercial Maritime Law states that a vessel can acquire the UAE flag if it is proven that the owner of the vessel is a natural or legal citizen of the UAE. It also states that the vessel must weigh at least 10 tonnes. The registration of a vessel in the UAE must have a port of registration, which means an individual must select a specific Emirate to register the vessel, and the whole registration procedure is conducted online via the FTA website.


Registering a vessel in Dubai

A vessel that is intended to navigate the Emirate of Dubai is suggested to be registered with the DMCA, not the FTA. The Executive Regulation states, “no vessel may be used in the Emirate (Dubai) Unless it is registered and licensed with the authority.” The authority is DMCA. The DMCA incorporates a similar language. The Executive Regulation is applied to:

“All the vessels sailing in the waters of the Emirate.”


Categories of vessels

The DMCA describes the types of vessels there are.

There are three (3) categories a vessel is divided into:


1. Commercial Vessels:

Vessels that are intended for conducting business include:

  • Pleasure vessels that are designated to be chartered
  • Vessels that operate in the ports of the Emirate.
  • Vessels that are being used for construction purposes
  • Vessels used for piloting and towing
  • Passenger's vessels
  • Vessels for transporting goods  


2. Pleasure Vessels:

Vessels that are intended for tourism and recreational purposes include:

a) Motorized pleasure vessels such as

  • personal watercraft and similar Vessels;
  • Vessels less than twelve (12) meters in length;
  • Vessels between twelve (12) and twenty-four (24) meters in length; and
  • Vessels more than twenty-four (24) meters in length.

b) Non-motorized pleasure vessels

  • Rowing boats
  • Sailing boats


3. Traditional wooden vessels

Vessels that are made out of wood include abras (Small passenger boats), wooden floating restaurants, wooden tourist boats and similar vessels.


License term

The term of a license is a period of one year that is renewable. The owner of the vessel should apply for renewal of the license within one month of the expiry date, considering the insurance policy is still valid. Shipowners must regard that licenses will be cancelled if it is not renewed one year from their date of expiry.


Requirements for license renewal

An application for a renewal of a license must be submitted to the Authority (DMCA), and the following documents should be presented:

1. A valid inspection pass report issued by DMCA or an entity that is accredited by DMCA;

2. A copy of Khulasat al qaid (family book) for UAE nationals along with a passport or Emirates ID. For non- UAE nationals, a copy of the passport and a UAE residence permit or Emirates ID.

3. A copy of the trade license if the owner is a legal person

4. Original license of vessel

5. Original insurance copy valid for thirteen (13) months

6. Original radio license

7. Any other document required under the resolution and instruction that is issued by the DMCA


Registration and licensing applications for vessels are submitted online through the DMCA’s website, where the full details and information is provided. The details that are requested by the DMCA for registering a ship are the standard details that any highly regarded ship registries require.



Each of the seven Emirates in the UAE has different jurisdictions and each of the emirates can pass legislation that involves issues from its own jurisdiction. Any potential ship owner wishing to register their vessel in UAE is advised to familiarize themselves with the legal obligation and responsibilities of the whole UAE, as well as each individual Emirates from legal experts. A shipowner is encouraged to understand the statutes and laws in the early process of purchasing a vessel. They should get familiar with issues such as financing options and procedures, registration and licensing. A shipowner should also decide the waters in which the ship would be navigating in, and get educated on the laws required for that certain Emirate.