Clyde updates on Saudi Arabian marine law

Sara Khoja, Heidi Watson, Khurram Ali & Ahmed Alhudaithi have supplied an update for legal firm Clyde & Co on Saudi Arabian marine law.

In January 2019 Saudi Arabia introduced a bespoke commercial maritime law.

Currently, the KSA Labour Law (originally issued in 2005 and amended in 2015) contains express provisions relating to the employment of crew members and other seafarers on KSA flagged vessels and those in KSA waters. Seamen’s contracts are obliged to be in writing and entered in the vessel’s records. It should state whether it is for a limited period (stating the duration clearly) or for a single voyage. If it is made for a single voyage, it shall specify the city or harbour where the voyage ends, and at what stage of unloading or loading the vessel at this harbour the contract terminates. Also, the contract must include the following information:

·       Date and place of its conclusion

·       Name of the chandler

·       Name of the seaman, his surname, age, nationality and homeland, type of assigned work, method of performance

·       Certification for work in sea navigation

·       The Personal Marine Card

·       Wage and duration of the contract

The contract must be issued in triplicate, one copy for the vessel’s chandler, one for the captain which is to be kept aboard the vessel and a copy for the seaman. The work terms and rules aboard the vessel must be posted in the crew quarters. A seafarer must be at least 18 years old, have a certificate to provide marine services and be medically fit.

The Maritime Law supplements the KSA Labour Law provisions and applies to Saudi and foreign vessels that anchor in Saudi ports or territorial water, apart from warships and non-commercial ships for public service or those specifically provided, unless in relation to collision, and salvage.

The definition of marine employment is wider than the Maritime Law as it covers any person working on a vessel and not only a seafarer.

KSA nationals employed to carry out works on board vessels that sail outside KSA territorial water may not do so, unless they obtain the marine service certificate from the Ministry.

Obligations of the ship owner or charterer include:

1.     Agreeing the wages in writing;

2.     Paying wages per month or per voyage (with provisions for paying wages to the seafarer’s heirs if he dies on a voyage)

3.     Provision of free medical care and continued wages during sick leave;

4.     Covering funeral costs if the seafarer dies during a voyage;

5.     Extending a fixed term until the end of a voyage if the fixed term expires during a voyage or until the seafarer is returned to the agreed port; and

6.     Entering in the vessel’s logbook disciplinary procedures, decision to dismiss and the reasons for the dismissal of any seafarer (failing which the dismissal will be unlawful).

Fines of up to SAR 20,000 ($5,333) can be imposed on any member of the crew of a vessel or marine unit who causes it to stop or precluded its sailing due to misrepresentations. If the statements are maliciously submitted the fine is SAR 50,000.

KSA is not currently a signatory to the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC). Clyde observed that, “in some ways, the Maritime Law and KSA Labour Law match the rules under the MLC”. However, there is no minimum provision for holiday, maximum hours of work and minimum rest breaks, repatriation rights, basic rules on accommodation, food and catering, and the handling of complaints. The KSA Labour Law does cover some of these areas but would only apply to individuals employed on vessels who are also registered with the KSA Ministry of Labour and Social Development and GOSI.

Clyde noted that the MLC placed significant regulatory burdens on the vessel owner, while the KSA Maritime Law imposed these on the charterer or the owner.

The writers said that “given the increasingly regulated environment at sea and KSA’s clear intention to promote its logistics sector, it is possible that in the near future KSA will ratify the MLC in the near future. We have seen other GCC countries move towards greater alignment with the MLC, such as the UAE’s regulations regarding private medical insurance for individuals on vessels introduced in February 2018.”