13 January 2014

Singapore: becoming more attractive for international arbitration

With the newly issued SIAC Arbitration Rules, Singapore further strengthens its position as a preferred venue for international arbitration in Asia.

This article is available in English only.

The newly issued Arbitration Rules of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) include a number of significant changes affecting the arbitration process. These changes are highlighted below.

New governance structure

A new court of arbitration, the SIAC Court, will now oversee the administration of arbitral proceedings under the SIAC Rules. The President of the SIAC Court will determine whether an application merits expedited proceedings and will appoint arbitrators and emergency arbitrators. The SIAC Court will also determine preliminary jurisdictional objections and challenges to arbitrators.

Amended rules

The new SIAC Rules introduce a number of changes directly affecting the arbitration process:

  • Clarification of the rules on when the arbitration begins and the rules on the extension of time limits. The SIAC Registrar is now authorised to decide on whether a notice of arbitration is complete and therefore when an arbitration has commenced for the purposes of the SIAC Rules.
  • Preliminary objections to the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal prior to its being constituted will be dealt with by the SIAC Registrar, which will determine whether the preliminary jurisdictional objection should be referred to the SIAC Court. If the SIAC Registrar refers the matter to the SIAC Court, the SIAC Court will then determine whether it is prima facie satisfied that a valid arbitration agreement under the SIAC Rules exists.
  • The arbitral tribunal is authorised to decide on any issues that have not been explicitly or implicitly raised in the parties’ submissions, provided that those issues have been clearly brought to the attention of the other parties and the parties have had an adequate opportunity to address them. The introduction of this rule gives effect to the recent decision of the Singapore Court of Appeal in which the Court held that a tribunal can have regard to issues in disputes which arise in the course of proceedings, but which were not formally ‘pleaded’ in the parties’ submissions.
  • Due to recent amendments of the Singapore International Arbitration Act, the arbitral tribunal can now award post-award interest for any period it considers appropriate.
  • SIAC can publish redacted versions of awards, omitting the names of the parties and other identifying information.
  • SIAC’s jurisdiction has been extended and it may now deal with disputes arising under a bilateral or multilateral investment treaty.
  • Decisions of the President of the SIAC Court, the SIAC Court and the SIAC Registrar with respect to all matters relating to arbitration are conclusive and binding on the parties and the arbitral tribunal. The parties are deemed to have waived any right of appeal or review in respect of those decisions.

When entering into contracts, it is worth considering some of the particulars of any prospective litigation or arbitration. Singapore’s International Arbitration Act is based on the most recent iteration of the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration and Singapore is seen as an arbitration-friendly jurisdiction. Singapore is party to the New York Convention on the recognition and enforcement of arbitration awards, which means that arbitral awards rendered in Singapore can be recognised and enforceable in over 140 countries worldwide. The new SIAC Rules highlight the importance of Singapore as one of the principal international arbitration venues. For many parties, Singapore continues to be an attractive alternative venue for dispute resolution, especially in South East Asia.