Arbitration centre hits record numbers

Mr Lucien Wong stepped down as SIAC chairman last year to become Attorney- General. SIAC's chairman Davinder Singh said the centre will continue to improve its services. SIAC's Court of Arbitration president Gary Born said users increasingly trust th
SIAC’s Court of Arbitration president Gary Born said users increasingly trust the centre.

SIAC received 343 new cases involving $17.13b from 56 jurisdictions last year

Back when it began operations in 1991, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) handled just two cases.

Last year, it received 343 new cases from 56 jurisdictions, the highest number of new cases filed.

This was a 55 per cent jump from the 222 cases filed in 2014.

The sum involved in last year's new cases was $17.13 billion, the highest amount in dispute it has registered, according to SIAC's annual report released yesterday.

Singapore's arbitration flagship also handled a case involving $5.02 billion - the highest sum in a single case in its 25-year history.

The SIAC is steered by a board of directors chaired by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh. Its Court of Arbitration is presided by international arbitration star Gary Born and 17 others, such as Queen's Counsel Toby Landau and Senior Counsel Cavinder Bull and Alvin Yeo.

  • Out of public glare

    Cases that go to arbitration are usually confidential and settled behind closed doors.

    But some end up in the public domain when, for example, parties dissatisfied with an outcome take them to court to quash an award.

    Last month, Judicial Commissioner Kannan Ramesh dismissed a bid by yacht brokerage firm Prometheus Marine to set aside an arbitrator's award.

    This was in relation to the sale of a US$1.35 million (S$1.91 million) yacht in 2011 to British national Ann Rice, a company managing director.

    She sued Prometheus for breach of contractual terms and was last year awarded US$947,403 in damages and legal costs by the arbitrator.

    Prometheus sought to set aside the ruling but judge Kannan said the company's "litany of complaints" were all "clearly unmeritorious".

    K. C. Vijayan

Lawyers said SIAC's report card showed that Singapore has cemented its position as a preferred seat for international arbitration in Asia.

Respondents in the White & Case 2015 International Arbitration survey by Queen Mary College of London University ranked Singapore as the most improved seat.

The survey cited high administration standards, neutrality and global presence as top reasons.

Said WongPartnership lawyer Chou Shean Yu: "There was a sense that in 2013 to 2014, the number of new cases had hit a plateau, meaning the year-on-year increase was not going to be sustained, but the 2015 statistics and now 2016's show that SIAC in fact continues to grow in prominence as a favoured arbitral institution.

"It also remains in the forefront as a thought leader."

SIAC's upward trajectory is also backed by an arbitration-friendly legal ecosystem and framework here, which includes world-class facilities at Maxwell Chambers.

Speaking at its congress last year, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam lauded SIAC for having built a brand name and reputation based on trust, neutrality and efficiency.

Mr Lucien Wong stepped down as SIAC chairman last year to become Attorney- General. SIAC's chairman Davinder Singh said the centre will continue to improve its services. SIAC's Court of Arbitration president Gary Born said users increasingly trust th
SIAC’s chairman Davinder Singh said the centre will continue to improve its services.

Some 80 per cent of the 343 new cases filed last year were international in nature.

About half did not involve Singaporean parties.

Parties from India were the top foreign user of the SIAC, followed by those from China and the United States.

Other countries in the top-10 list included Indonesia, South Korea and Britain.

About 40 per cent of the new cases filed last year involved the construction, engineering and commercial sectors.

Speaking at SIAC's annual appreciation event yesterday, Mr Born, president of its Court of Arbitration, said "users are increasingly entrusting SIAC with the administration of complex and high-value disputes in arbitration".

He paid tribute to former SIAC chairman Lucien Wong who, in December, stepped down to become Singapore's Attorney-General.

Mr Lucien Wong stepped down as SIAC chairman last year to become Attorney- General. SIAC's chairman Davinder Singh said the centre will continue to improve its services. SIAC's Court of Arbitration president Gary Born said users increasingly trust th
Mr Lucien Wong stepped down as SIAC chairman last year to become Attorney- General.

"His vision and inspiration have been essential to SIAC's success.

"It has been a great privilege, and pleasure, to work together with Lucien Wong," said Mr Born.

Mr Singh said the SIAC will stay firmly focused on the things that matter to users.

"These include regular reviews of its rules, enhancing the range, quality and speed of its services and offerings, and increasing the opportunities for arbitrators, both experienced and young."

At yesterday's event, SIAC chief executive Lim Seok Hui also thanked the local and international legal and business communities for their support.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2017, with the headline 'Arbitration centre hits record numbers'. Print Edition | Subscribe