Bahrain's new Maritime Law to attract shipping

The new legislation has been described as the second-largest law in Bahrain’s legislative history

Image used for illustrative purpose. A cargo ship is seen docked at Khalifa Port at APM Terminals in Muharraq, Bahrain, September 11, 2018.

Image used for illustrative purpose. A cargo ship is seen docked at Khalifa Port at APM Terminals in Muharraq, Bahrain, September 11, 2018.

REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Stricter maritime laws under discussion are aimed at attracting more shipping to Bahrain, the Shura Council heard yesterday.

Transportation and Telecommuncations Minister Kamal Ahmed said the 392-article Maritime Law clearly defined duties and responsibilities of each party, as well as punishments for violations.

He was addressing members of the upper chamber of the National Assembly as they debated the comprehensive government-drafted legislation during their weekly session.

“Bahrain doesn’t have many ships registered under her but through the advanced law defining clear rights we are trying to attract more,” said Mr Ahmed.

“We are not China, America or Europe with strong fleets of commercial vessels, but we have to work towards getting more.“

All ships in the world have foreign employees, and it’s the same here.

“The contracts of foreign workers are governed by the labour ministries in their home countries and depends on the employment agreements signed.

“But in case of local hiring, we deal with it. The minister said it would be illogical to dispute all cases in Bahrain since it would disrupt work and create chaos.

“Imagine for every Emirati ship scattered across the world, they would have to go to Dubai to resolve disputes; what would happen to operations?”

The Shura Council yesterday approved 275 of the 392 articles of the new Maritime Law, including 91 articles passed two weeks ago.

Only three articles – on foreign employment, disputes and courts’ involvement – were returned to the public utilities and environment affairs committee for further clarification.

The new legislation has been described as the second-largest law in Bahrain’s legislative history, after the 1976 Penal Code which consists of 418 articles.

Under the new law, once approved, stowaways on a Bahraini registered ship could be jailed for up to three months, or fined BD2,000, or both.

Those helping the stowaways would face the same punishment.

The captain is responsible to notify the ministry’s vessels and ships registration and sailors’ affairs directorate and the consulate of the person concerned.

Should the stowaway be stateless then the nearest country should be informed.

The owner of the vessel has the right to immediately terminate the contracts of crew members involved.

Any unauthorised or prohibited entry on board without permission while docking in Bahrain will be met with a fine of between BD1,000 and BD10,000.

Refusal to leave will also incur the same punishment.

If such incidents occur in any foreign port then local authorities there need to be informed.

The new law imposes, among others, tough jail sentences and hefty fines for violations involving illegal activities at sea, causing pollution and transporting unlicensed cargo.

Under articles approved yesterday, sailors on Bahraini registered ships will have clear rights regarding work, injury, or death.

The directorate would draw up all the rules, ensuring proper employment, monthly wages, safe working environment and vocational safety.

The directorate would also work to ensure that clean accommodation, food and beverages are provided to the crew while on board and at any port or destination.

No sailor will be allowed on board unless medically cleared.

The owner is responsible for all contracts even those made by the captain while sailing.

Other approved articles deal with passengers, animals and cargo transport.

Ministry vessels and ships registration and sailors’ affairs director Mayas Al Moataz cleared Shura members’ doubts on certain articles.

Under the law, captains who fail to report pollution caused by their ships will also be fined between BD1,000 and BD3,000, and captains whose ships carry unauthorised nuclear waste will be fined between BD50,000 and BD100,000.

Unlicensed port entry or departure by vessels also carries fines of between BD10,000 and BD100,000, while failure to provide information or present false data will be punished with fines of between BD300 and BD1,000.

The same fine will be applicable to captains who refuse authorised personnel from boarding the ship and those who refuse inspection.

Among the hundreds of penalties regulating the sector is also a fine of up to BD1,000 for transporting unlicensed containers.

The law covers ships weighing 150 tonnes or above, with those over 20 years old not given permission to operate unless an exception is made by the authorised minister.

The same applies for vessels aged up to 30 before being banned from

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