Users across six continents, from countries as varied as Madagascar, Germany and the US, have been taking their disputes to Singapore's arbitration flagship, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), which recorded its highest number of new cases last year.
The 452 new cases filed in 2017 from parties in 58 countries involved US$4.07 billion ($5.3 billion). This is a 32 per cent jump from the number of cases seen in 2016, and more than five times the number a decade ago, according to the centre's 2017 annual report, which was released yesterday.
"While India and China remain significant contributors to our caseload, the top 10 foreign user rankings saw new entrants from Europe and the Middle East, underscoring SIAC's global appeal to users from diverse legal systems and cultures," said Ms Lim Seok Hui, the centre's chief executive.
The top 10 foreign users hailed from countries such as the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Germany. Other users, not in the top 10, came from a broad spectrum of countries, including Madagascar, Bermuda and Turkey.
Industry players say SIAC's upward trajectory will continue, given the growing popularity of arbitration to settle disputes and the increasing number of foreign parties which name Singapore as the arbitration venue of choice.
Cases filed with SIAC involved a slew of sectors, including banking and financial services, shipping and construction, with trade and commercial disputes making up some 53 per cent of the claims.
SIAC chairman and Senior Counsel Davinder Singh said: "SIAC is where it is today because of Singapore's reputation for integrity and the rule of law, its status as a trusted and sophisticated hub, and the Singapore Courts' support for and active contribution to develop the law and practice of arbitration."
Rajah & Tann partner Paul Tan, who deals in international arbitration, said SIAC's success can be credited to its ability to constantly innovate. For example, the centre is embarking on a protocol for the consolidation of arbitration proceedings across different institutions.
He said SIAC also benefited from the Government's commitment to ensure all the hallmarks of a great arbitration venue, including infrastructure such as the new Maxwell Chambers Suites which, when completed next year, will provide about 50 new offices.
Singapore Institute of Arbitrators president Dinesh Dhillon said "as the Asia-Pacific is a global leader in terms of infrastructure and economic development, there is every reason to be optimistic about SIAC's future prospects to do even better".
International arbitration specialist and lawyer Tay Yu-Jin of Mayer Brown JSM said the success means the arbitration community in Singapore will have a very vibrant space.
London-based veteran industry player Brian Lee said: "Despite the rocky world economy since 2008, arbitration has gone from strength to strength and there is no reason why this will not continue in that Switzerland of Asia - Singapore."
The practice development and marketing manager of 7KBW Barristers in London and former chair of the Institute of Barristers' Clerks added that Singapore is the No. 1 hub in Asia and is vying with Paris and London as one of the world's leading venues. "Singapore sets the gold standard for user-friendliness, fantastic infrastructure, good hotels and, above all, world-class facilities in Maxwell Chambers," he said.