At its Annual Appreciation Cocktail Reception last night on 19 February 2013, the SIAC released its Annual Report for 2012 and made a number of announcements, both of which signal and cement its reputation as one of the premier international arbitration centres in the world.
Some of the key highlights and figures mentioned in the Annual Report 2012 include:
- SIAC saw 25% increase in new cases from 188 cases in 2011 to 235 cases in 2012.The SIAC has exceeded 200 new case filings for the first time and makes the SIAC the fastest growing major provider of international dispute resolution services.
- SIAC recorded a record-high figure of S$3.61 billion in terms of the total sum of disputes arbitrated. This far surpasses the combined amounts from 2010 (S$1.35 billion) and 2011 (S$1.32 billion). A S$1.5 billion dollar dispute contributed to this record figure. But a quick calculation would show that even without that dispute, it would still be a record breaking year for the SIAC.
- The average amount in dispute for cases in 2012 was S$15.36 million (or S$9.01 million without the S$1.5 billion dispute). This far exceeds the average amount in dispute for 2011.
- SIAC published a selection of SIAC awards after carefully redacting certain information to preserve the confidentiality of the parties and their arbitration.
Interestingly, for the first time in 3 years, China overtook India (by two cases!) as the biggest contributor of new SIAC cases. New filings from Indonesia came in third. The biggest surprise though, was the USA which came in fourth.
As noted by Senior Minister of State for Law and Education, Ms Indranee Rajah S.C. in her speech, these figures are testament to “the quality of the counsel, quality of the arbitrators and quality of the SIAC“. Furthermore, the SIAC “has consolidated its position as a preferred arbitration centre in Asia, with many more people writing in SIAC and Singapore into their contracts“.
Announcements and Key Developments
The two biggest announcements last night had to be the formation of a new SIAC Court of Arbitration (“SIAC Court“) as well as the continued expansion of the SIAC overseas.
Chairman of the SIAC, Prof Michael Pryles announced that the SIAC would separate its business and governance functions from its legal and technical ones to better deal with the centre’s increased case load and expansion plans.
Under the current system, all such functions are handled by the SIAC Board of Directors (“SIAC Board“). With the planned bifurcation, the SIAC Board will focus on business strategy, organisational governance and operations including functions such as finance, human resource, marketing and resource allocation.
In turn, the SIAC Court will handle those legal and technical functions currently handled by the SIAC Board. The SIAC Court will handle, amongst others, the administration of arbitration and the appointment of arbitrators.
The SIAC Court will be led by Prof Pryles as its first President. His role as the Chairman of the SIAC Board will be taken over by Mr Lucien Wong. The SIAC Court will comprise of members with a good geographical spread and with a balance of civil and common law lawyers.
The obvious parallel here would be the ICC Court of Arbitration, whose role includes the scrutinising of ICC arbitral awards pursuant to the ICC Rules of Arbitration. Notwithstanding the lack of a similar provision in the SIAC Rules, we understand that this scrutiny of arbitral awards is performed informally by the SIAC. It remains to be seen if this role will be formally taken up by the SIAC Court.
We are told that we should expect further amendments to the SIAC Rules with the new rules to be available shortly.
The SIAC also announced its intention to open new offices in Seoul, Mumbai and also in the Gulf.
The SIAC is thus in a small group of dispute resolution centres (ICC, LCIA and CIETAC) which can claim to be truly international as opposed to simply handling international disputes.
The SIAC’s growth over the years coincides with the rapid development of arbitration in Singapore (and the region) which has been nothing short of remarkable. Older practitioners would still recall that a bare decade ago, arbitration would not have been the standard form of dispute resolution for corporate commercial matters. That situation has completely changed over the last few years.
We can put it no better than as Ms Rajah S.C. said,
“SIAC’s statistics signal a growing number of international cases gravitating to Singapore. Its growth is the result of the holistic approach that Singapore has employed in the last few years to develop Singapore’s arbitration eco-system:
a. [Singapore has] a completely open regime for international commercial arbitration.
b. Parties engaging in arbitration in Singapore have the freedom to engage lawyers of any nationality and to use any governing law.
c. [Parliament has] introduced tax incentives for arbitrators and arbitration work.
d. [Singapore’s] Courts have been strongly supportive and pro-arbitration.
e. [Parliament has] also put in much effort to ensure that our legal framework for arbitration is at the cutting edge of arbitration practice. Apart from being signatory to the New York Convention and ensuring that our International Arbitration Act is UNCITRAL Model Law compliant, [Parliament] continue[s] to actively update [Singapore’s] International Arbitration Act (IAA), through regular consultation with the arbitration community”.