1. Arbitration at the SIAC – An Overview
“Gentlemen, I fervently trust that before long the principle of arbitration may win such confidence as to justify its extension to a wider field of international differences.”
Singapore is the venue of choice for the arbitration of international disputes in Asia. The legislature in Singapore enacted the Arbitration Act in 2001 with the latest version being dated July 2002 and the International Arbitration Act which was enacted in 1994 and last revised in December 2002.
At the forefront of the growth of arbitration is The Singapore International Arbitration Centre (the “SIAC”). The SIAC has handled over 1,600 cases since its inception. 2017 saw a record number of new case filings at the SIAC; 452 cases. This involved parties from no fewer than 58 countries spanning 6 continents. This is particularly impressive in the face of the quantum of disputes brought before the SIAC.
In business contracts, particularly those involving parties from different countries, arbitration is the preferred method of dispute resolution. Arbitration in Singapore is carried out in accordance with the SIAC Rules has gained prominence over the years.
The SIAC Rules themselves set out the procedural rules which will govern the arbitration proceedings. The SIAC Rules 2016, the latest version, has the rules translated into Arabic, Burmese, Chinese, Farsi, German, Bahasa Indonesia, Japanese, Korean, Portugese, Russian, Thai, Uzbek and Vietnamese.
It is to be noted that the SIAC Rules 2016 is set out in English, which is its official language. If there is any discrepancy or inconsistency via s vis the other languages and the English version, it has been clarified that the English version of the Rules shall prevail.
An overview of the SIAC Rules 2016 (which is the 6th Edition of 1 August 2016) will show that there are 41 Rules and 1 Schedule which deals with the appointment of an Emergency Arbitrator. The appointment of an Emergency Arbitrator will be sought where one of the parties is seeking emergency interim. This will be dealt with in more detail in another update.
Casting our eye over the Rules themselves, my view is that parties should pay particular attention to the following Rules:
The above is a lengthy list but ideally, parties should go into arbitration at the SIAC with their eyes wide open.
Of course, if one has the luxury of time, it would be best to review the whole of the SIAC Rules before one signs an agreement containing an SIAC arbitration clause. However, hindsight is usually 20/20 and the reality is that many parties usually only give the SIAC Rules 2016 the attention it deserves once it becomes apparent that a dispute lays not too far off in the horizon.
Other than looking at the SIAC Rules 2016, parties would also need to be mindful as the cost of starting an arbitration. Arbitration is often touted as the more economical sibling of litigation. However, my experience has shown me that this is not always the case. You need a lawyer who sees you as a long-term partner, not a one-off client who he wants to.
In fact, with increasingly tighter case management in the Singapore Courts, the fact is that litigating a dispute in the High Court of Singapore is often more economical than arbitrating one at the SIAC. The primary reason for this is that fees at the High Court are usually a fraction of the fees of appointing an arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators. However, this option may not be open to parties who have already incorporated an SIAC arbitration clause in their international contract/ agreement.
The above was a quick over view of arbitration in Singapore and the SIAC Rules. The next few articles will deal with matters such as;
1. Commencing an Arbitration at the SIAC;
2. The SIAC Arbitration Clause;
3. The cost of arbitration at the SIAC;
4. The SIAC model clause;
5. SIAC arbitration fees; and
6. Appointing an arbitrator at the SIAC.
* From the SIAC Rules, 6th Edition
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