Monday, June 4, 2018

Arresting a Vessel in Oman


Oman has five ports: Al-Duqm Port, Sohar Port, Sultan Qaboos Port, Khasab Port and Salalah Port, all of which have been receiving an increase in traffic in the last several years.  Given the numerous ports and Oman’s strategic position in the Gulf, there are a considerable amount of vessels that pass through Oman’s ports every year.  In light of the number of vessels that visit Oman’s ports, it is worthwhile to consider the procedures involved in arresting a vessel.

The process

In order to arrest a vessel (also termed obtaining an attachment order), the vessel must physically be in an Oman port (1),  and not ready to sail from the Omani port.

Often, it is beneficial to approach a court to obtain the arrest order on an ex parte basis (where notice is not given to the ship owner/ charterer) just prior to the vessel arriving in Oman.  If the vessel owner or charterer is aware that there is a precautionary attachment issued against the vessel in Oman, the vessel will likely avoid calling to port in Oman.  In Oman, it is possible to approach a court to obtain the arrest order without having first issued a proceeding against the vessel owner, provided a proceeding (with formal pleadings) is issued within 10 days of the arrest order being granted.


There are several key points to note that relate to security and the arrest of a ship.  The first is that prior to a court issuing an arrest order the court will request security or bond from the party applying for the arrest.  The amount of security required can vary and is determined by the court at its discretion.  The second point in relation to security is that after the arrest of the vessel, if a bank guarantee or other form of security is provided by the ship owner, the court is obliged to release the ship (2).   Finally, if the arrest of a ship is found to have been without legal basis, the party that had the ship arrested may be ordered to pay compensation to the ship owner (3).

The right to arrest

Under Omani law an application for the arrest of a vessel must be made to a relevant circuit judge of the Primary Court.  The relevant court is the court at the port where the ship is berthed.
An application for arrest will be filed in accordance with Articles 190 and 191 of the Civil and Commercial Procedures Law, which provides that a court is competent to give provisional relief in the form of an injunction.  Further, Article 187 of the Maritime Law provides that a precautionary attachment may be imposed on vessels by marine mortgage creditors.
In order to establish that a party is a marine mortgage creditor, that party needs to establish that the marine debt is a claim of right arising out of one of the following:

1. Damage caused by the vessel following a collision or other reason.
2. Loss of lives or physical injuries caused by the vessel, or which originated from her utilisation.
3. Aid and rescue.
4. Contracts for utilising or chartering the vessel under a charter party or other contract.
5. Contracts for the carriage of goods under a charter party, bill of lading or other.
6. Complete loss or damage of goods and luggage carried by the vessel.
7. General average (i.e., the apportionment of financial liability for the loss arising from the jettisoning of cargo by dividing the costs among all those whose property (ship or cargo) was preserved by the action).
8. Towage of vessel.
9. Pilotage of vessels.
10. Supply of equipment and tools which are necessary for the vessel’s utilization or maintenance.
11. Building, repairing and equipping of the vessel as well as the expenses incurred therein while in docks.
12. Wages of masters, officers and seamen and others who work on the vessel under articles of agreement.
13. Sums expended by the master, shippers, charterers or agents for the vessel’s account.
14. Dispute over the ownership of a vessel or dispute over single ownership.
15. The rights in the profits resulting from her utilisation.
16. Marine mortgage, especially every mortgage the origin of which enables the applying of limitation of liability of the owner or her husband (an agent on land representing the owner of a ship, who attends to the ship’s provisioning, repairing, and general management).
The above is considerably expansive and permits various parties to apply for the arrest of a ship in Oman.

Sister ship arrest

If the ship that a party wishes to arrest does not frequently call port in Oman, an alternative remedy to arresting the ship is the arrest of a sister ship.  Article 189 of the Maritime Law provides that a vessel to which the debt relates may be arrested, and any other vessel on account of the same debt provided the other vessel was also “owned” by the same owner as the first vessel at the time the debt arose.
Article 190 of the Maritime Law provides that, if the vessel has been chartered out to a charterer who was given the right of navigational management and was solely responsible for a marine debt relating to the vessel, the creditor may impose attachment on this vessel or on any other vessel owned by the charterer himself.  In the case of a charterer being solely responsible for the ship, attachment may not be imposed on any other vessel owned by the owner of the ship in accordance with Article 189 above, only other vessels owned by the charterer.

Concluding remarks

In light of Oman’s geographic position in the Middle East and the number of ports in Oman, as well as amenable laws relating to arresting vessels, parties should evaluate Oman as a viable option as a jurisdiction in which to take action when they are considering arresting a vessel.

(1) Article 191 of the Maritime Law.
(2) Article 192 of the Maritime Law.
(3) Article 377 of the Civil and Commercial Procedures Law.