To mark the one-year anniversary of the launch of the Emirates Maritime Arbitration Centre ("EMAC"), Roger Kennell and Manan Singh look back on developments relating to this ambitious project by the Emirate of Dubai to become the leading maritime hub in the Middle East.

Background

On 15 September 2014, the Crown Prince of Dubai announced the launch of the Emirates Maritime Arbitration Centre, aimed at providing an attractive option for resolving maritime disputes in the Middle East.

The Dubai Maritime City Authority ("DMCA"), in charge of monitoring the project, made no secret of the fact that EMAC was part of a bigger plan to "position the Emirate as a world-class maritime hub"1.

A few months later, in April 2015, at a speech delivered at an "EMAC Workshop", H.E. Dr. Abdullah Belhaif Al-Nuaimi, UAE Minister of Public Works, reiterated the Government's full support of the initiative.

The EMAC Rules are now said to be at a very advanced stage of drafting. It is, therefore, a good time to discuss what we anticipate will be their main features.

Shape and format of EMAC

It is anticipated that the default seat of EMAC arbitrations will be the Dubai International Financial Centre ("DIFC"), with a view to capitalising on the arbitration-friendly approach of the DIFC Courts. Parties will, however, remain free to choose a different seat.

The EMAC Rules are also expected to adopt a light-touch approach to case management, in line with other maritime institutions such as the London Maritime Arbitration Association (“LMAA”).

In an effort to promote a quick and cost-efficient settlement of disputes, the Rules look set to encourage the use of a sole arbitrator and provide specific provisions for fast track arbitration and small claims.

Last but not least, though there is still uncertainty on this issue at this stage, it is understood that provisions for multi-party arbitration, joinder, and emergency arbitration will also be included.

Overall, it is largely anticipated that the EMAC Rules will purport to promote an even quicker, more flexible and cost-efficient process than the rules of other leading maritime arbitral institutions such as the LMAA, with which EMAC has the ambition to compete.

Conclusion

The exact date on which the Rules will come into force - and on which EMAC is expected to become operational - is still uncertain.

There is no doubt that the EMAC Rules will be heavily scrutinised and analysed with interest by the region’s major players in the maritime sector.

Should the DMCA succeed in its ambition to adopt Rules promoting quicker and cheaper settlement of maritime disputes than offered by current arbitration centres, there is every reason to believe that EMAC will be another success for Dubai in the coming years. As the leading maritime city in the Middle East, Dubai is predicted to rank among the top 7 leading maritime centres in the world in the next five years2, which testifies to Dubai's success in promoting itself as a major regional arbitration and dispute resolution hub.



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1 Press release issued by the Dubai Maritime City Authority on 18 September 2014, available at:
http://www.dmca.ae/en/NewsMediaCenter/PressReleases/NewsDetails.aspx?News=
newlylaunched.emirates.maritime.arbitration.centre.aims.to.position.dubai.as.a.worldclass.maritime.hub
2 According to a survey conducted by the Menon group, available athttp://en.menon.no/maritimeoffshore