One of the biggest concerns that parties have about engaging in arbitration is the length of time it may take to process the arbitration and get an award from the arbitral tribunal. This is something that arbitral institutions are, necessarily, looking to address. In 2010, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (“SIAC“) introduced an expedited arbitration procedure to help parties resolve their disputes as quickly as possible.
Rule 5.1 of the SIAC Rules allows parties to apply for arbitral proceedings to be conducted on an expedited basis where: a) the amount in dispute is less than S$5 million; b) the parties agree; or c) in cases of exceptional urgency. Once an application is made by a party for an expedited procedure, the Chairman of the SIAC will decide whether use of this speedy process is appropriate.
Under the expedited procedure:
- the Registrar of the SIAC can shorten any time limits under the SIAC Rules;
- the case will be referred to a sole arbitrator (unless the Chairman determines otherwise);
- there will be a single hearing for the examination of all witnesses and oral arguments; and
- save in exceptional circumstances, the award of the arbitral tribunal must be made within six months of the tribunal being constituted and the reasons for the award will be made in summary form only.
8% of the SIAC administered cases filed in 2011 were conducted pursuant to the expedited procedure and we expect this figure to grow as more arbitration users become aware of this option. In fact, the SIAC has recently introduced a model arbitration clause allowing parties to agree that the expedited procedure will apply to disputes with a quantum of more than S$5 million, so we can expect to see more high-value disputes benefiting from the expedited procedure as well.
Of course one of the main benefits to the expedited process is costs savings to the parties: one arbitrator is clearly cheaper than three and a single hearing for the examination of witnesses and oral arguments will save on room hire costs, lawyers’ and Counsels’ fees, transcribers’ fees etc.
But the SIAC has been known to reject applications for expedited arbitration. While the first two criteria for applying for an expedited process (the amount in dispute being less than S$5 million and agreement between the parties) are quite clear-cut, criteria three (cases of “exceptional urgency“) would benefit from having some guidelines on what qualifies so that parties can be better advised on whether they might be eligible for this speedy arbitration.