Earlier in the week, Singapore’s Parliament passed amendments to the International Arbitration Act (“IAA”) to increase the attractiveness of Singapore as a venue for arbitration. Click here to view a copy of the International Arbitration (Amendment) Bill.
- broaden the definition of an arbitration agreement;
- allow Singapore courts to review negative jurisdictional rulings by arbitration tribunals – these are rulings by arbitration tribunals that they (the tribunals) don’t have jurisdiction to hear a dispute that has been referred to arbitration;
- clarify the tribunal’s power to award interest; and
- provide legislative support for emergency arbitrators and interim orders.
(1) Broadening the definition of an arbitration agreement
A new Section 2A of the IAA maintains the requirement that arbitration agreements must be in writing, but relaxes this written requirement to include arbitration agreements “recorded in any form, whether or not the arbitration agreement or contract has been concluded orally, by conduct or by other means”.
This amendment effectively adopts Option 1 of Article 7 of the 2006 Amendments to the 1985 UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration. So for example, if two parties verbally agree to refer a dispute to arbitration and they document this by way of an audio recording, this now falls within the IAA’s definition of an arbitration agreement.
(2) Review of negative jurisdictional rulings by arbitral tribunals
Section 10 of the IAA has been repealed and replaced with a new Section 10. In a rare departure from the position under the UNCITRAL Model Law (the IAA adopts almost all of the Model Law without modification), the newly worded Section 10 allows a party to apply to the High Court to review any ruling by an arbitral tribunal (and at any stage of the proceedings) that it does not have jurisdiction to hear a dispute.
Previously, a Singapore court could only review positive jurisdictional rulings made by arbitral tribunals, i.e. rulings by tribunals that they have jurisdiction to hear the dispute. With these latest amendments, Singapore now joins other notable arbitration hubs such as England, Switzerland and France where courts are empowered to review both positive and negative jurisdictional rulings by arbitral tribunals.
(3) Tribunal’s power to award interest
Sections 12(5) and 20 of the IAA now make it clear that an arbitral tribunal may award simple or compound interest from such date, at such rate and with such rest on the whole or any part of any sum claimed or costs awarded in the arbitration.
(4) Legislative support for emergency arbitrators and interim orders
Section 2(a) of the IAA has been amended to include an emergency arbitrator in the definition of “arbitral tribunal”. The amendments give emergency arbitrators the same legal status and powers as that of any other arbitral tribunal. They also ensure that orders made by emergency arbitrators are enforceable under the IAA regime.
These latest amendments to the International Arbitration Act signal Singapore’s pro-active approach to developing and promoting Singapore’s prominence as a hub for international arbitration. And quite timely too, given that Singapore hosts the 21st Congress of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA) in June later this year – More about this significant global arbitration meeting here: https://singaporeinternationalarbitration.com/2012/05/10/icca-congress-the-countdown-begins/.