United Arab Emirates: Joint Operational Area

Last Updated: 5 June 2019
Article by STA Law Firm
Most Read Contributor in United Arab Emirates, September 2019


The JOA is a primary legally binding system where multiple gatherings hold hands are intending to make a benefit. It includes high dangers and expenses; however once a triumph; high rewards are accomplished. This empowers JOAs in the O&G business. It is an agreement between parties, who are either operators or non-operators, consenting to endeavor a typical task of E&P, to get benefits like risk mitigation and sharing the cost engaged with creating and delivering. It isn't equivalent to an association because there is sharing of benefits emerging out of joint activities.

Various Clauses

Default Clauses

This clause raises a condition when there is a failure of payment of the cash calls by either party to the JOA. It is held in instances of the non-defaulting parties reluctance in procuring 'the defaulter's interest, there is surrender and decommissioning of the activities, and the liabilities are shared on a star rata premise between the rest of the parties.

In thought, a JOA must give security arrangement if the parties default in meeting the business commitments. The revision in the UK JOA has incited an expansion in the default loan fees; though relinquishment stays unsafe in association with indebtedness, default similarly prompts 'voting rights,' the rights to data and the privilege to pull back' being suspended.

An inability to add to the money call prompts a default which can be ensured by the guiltless gatherings making up to 'the shortfall pro-rata.'

Penalty Clauses

Usually, JOA incorporates an installment provision for a break, in any case, on the off chance that it surpasses 'the expense of the termination, the court will run it as an unenforceable penalty proviso.

Robertson v Driver's Trs held the exchanged default statements as enforceable yet the penalty provisos as unenforceable. Cavendish Square Holdings case was proclaimed as 'the landmark judgment on the standards against default,' and it gave the relevance of the standard and when would it be able to be pronounced correctional and thus unenforceable.

Likewise, the Clydebank case built up the way that the type of the arrangement is to be considered 'in choosing whether it accommodated liquidated damages, in which case it would be enforceable, or a penalty, in which case it would not be enforceable.' The arrangement which is 'indulgent or unconscionable or extreme' is unenforceable. Neither the Scottish Law Commission nor the English Law Commission required the annulment of the standard; instead, it extended its degree.

Penalty and Forfeiture Clauses

For a long time, Jobson and Johnson asserted the use of penalty rule to forfeiture clauses, concluding that it was not enforceable to the extent there is an arrangement to repay the non-defaulting party for the misfortune.

It was bantered about the association of the penalty and forfeiture clauses because, in a penalty, cash is recouped by the method for harms; and relinquishment comprises of relinquishing the assets tidying up the damages and debts.

The innocent parties can guarantee relinquishment and can secure 'the interests of the defaulting parties' if the default proceeds for more than the time of 60 days. The standard for legally binding punishments gives that if the cure is finished up as a punishment, at that point, it is 'void and hence unenforceable.'

Cavendish Square Holdings Case

It was held that if the defaulting party loses his interest for the JOA, at that point, it very well may be contended that the statement was a punishment and along these lines unenforceable. Be that as it may, the Cavendish ruling was invited over Dunlop which separated punishment on the four-overlap test. Here, the dealer's break made him the defaulting investor. The vender contended that the statements were unenforceable punishment provisions. In any case, the Court was of the view that the retention and relinquishment conditions were enforceable and henceforth overruled the choice of the Appellate court.

The intrigue in Cavendish was permitted, and the appeal in Parkingeye was rejected, however the Supreme Court overruled the Appellate court choice and held the punishment statement to be enforceable, putting aside the old test for the assurance of enforceability since it was unsuitable and was an ' artificial categorization and a straightjacket into which the law risked being placed by an over-rigorous emphasis on a dichotomy'.

In Andrews v ANZ Banking Group Ltd the bank charges forced on clients were described as penalties and in this way unenforceable.

The True Test

The case expressed that the right and adaptable route in deciding a penalty proviso, pressure ought to be given to examining the commercial justification. The Court recognized that while convincing execution of commitments, it didn't 'make the forfeiture provision an unenforceable penalty.

The new true test supplanted the old test in Jobson v Johnson. 'The true test is

  • 'whether the reprimanded arrangement is a secondary obligation;'
  • 'which forces a disadvantage on the agreement breaker; exorbitant;'
  • 'unconscionable - out of all extent to any legitimate interest of the other party in the requirement of'
  • 'the essential commitments.'

This test relates just the assurance of the statements to be secondary obligations. The Court recognized auxiliary commitment as the 'one which characterizes the proportion of pay payable by a gathering on the off chance that it breaks an essential commitment... '. A straightforward case of a primary obligation would be delivering the goods and the payment of a predetermined amount as a penalty if goods being undelivered will be a secondary obligation. Presently, it was interpreted that if the condition managed secondary obligation, the following perspective to consider is its enforceability. The statement is unenforceable just if the arrangement is 'over the top,' 'excessive,' 'unconscionable' or an 'out-of-extent disadvantage' in examination 'to the innocent party's genuine intrigue.'

The test is separated into three stages. Stage one is setting up the idea of commitment. Next, researching 'the legitimate interest of the blameless party... '. In conclusion, 'where the default remains un-helped, the defaulting contractual worker is required to allocate a few or all.'

The law will remain in generally separate 'from the general standard of strict authorization by enabling punishments to be altered where they are high.

Penalty Clauses in Oil and Gas Industry

The guidelines administering the penalty clauses express that the application is restricted just to customer contracts. Numerous reasons have developed for being careful when the forfeiture clauses in a JOA are drafted or authorized. The O&G JOA directs 'the unincorporated relationship of gatherings holding interests in a basic permit or allows' however there is no definite proof of the relinquishment provisos being treated as enforceable in the O&G JOAs.

The provisions are unenforceable where they give 'a fixed installment to be made rather than harms, yet don't put together this concerning any endeavor to pre-gauge misfortune.' The taking part interests are relinquished for a default by the gathering in satisfying the installment commitments.

It was opined as time being a substance for the break and that the subject of a provision being corrective or not is to be settled on the conditions of each agreement when the deal was entered and not amid the rupture. Ruler Neuberger and Lord Sumption said 'the punitive outcomes of legally binding arrangement neglect to decide as at the season of the understanding.'

The default can barely be found in the business, yet the RSM case which managed the enforceability of relinquishment statements is proof that default can happen.

Numerous JOAs like the OGUK or AIPN requests giving a composed notice implying the idea of the default, to the non-defaulting gathering and provides elegance with time off for the most part 30-60 days to cure the disappointment, making the conditions less correctional since an open door is granted to the defaulting party for amendment. The English courts are given the expert to provide evenhanded alleviation from relinquishment if the gathering protects its case.

The relinquishment conditions which accommodate necessary selling of hydrocarbons toward the begin, and relinquishing the taking an interest interests on its expansion, are considered as "excessive" and henceforth unenforceable.


The default provisions offer stability' to the operating agreement. No clear answer is given by the Supreme Court in the case of Cavendish for the enforceability of forfeiture provisions in the O&G industry.

Makdessi is undoubtedly not an ultimate word on penalties since there will be developments which will study the limitations of the new test.

However, there are still arguments about upright commercial reasons to think that forfeiture clauses in JOAs are, overall, doubtful to be unenforceable penalty clauses.

The criterion is determining the secondary obligation imposing a detriment, on the defaulting party, over proportionate to the legitimate interest of the non-defaulting party, while the primary responsibilities are enforced.

The default in the payment of cash calls is due to low oil prices and regulatory changes. As there are not many cases regarding default provisions in the industry, uncertainty remains high and sometime must pass for a common view in the UKCS.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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