Singapore arbitration centre hits record high of 1,080 cases

This represented a 125 per cent increase from the 479 new cases filed in 2019.
This represented a 125 per cent increase from the 479 new cases filed in 2019.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A record 1,080 cases involving disputes totalling $11.25 billion were filed with the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) last year, the first time its caseload has crossed the 1,000 mark.

This represented a 125 per cent increase from the 479 new cases filed in 2019.

The figures were released by the SIAC, an independent and non-profit institution which provides arbitration services to the global business community, in its annual report on Wednesday (March 31).

The president of the centre's court of arbitration, Mr Gary Born, said: "These numbers are exceptional and will spur us to work even harder on improving the quality and efficiency of SIAC's case administration, to fulfil our goal of being the leading choice of users all over the world."

The 30-year-old SIAC is steered by a board of directors chaired by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh.

Mr Singh said: "We are deeply grateful for this immense support which is a clear reaffirmation of the international community's trust in SIAC's neutrality, integrity, independence, and time and cost efficiency, and of the world's regard for our best in class judiciary and a government which sets the legislative pace."

The centre's chief executive, Ms Lim Seok Hui, said the new milestone was reached through careful planning and hard work.

Of the 1,080 new filings, 94 per cent were international cases.

More than 75 per cent of the new cases arose from contracts that were entered into from 2018 to 2020. The highest disputed sum for a single case was $1.23 billion.

Parties from 60 jurisdictions chose to arbitrate at SIAC last year, with India, the United States and China topping the foreign user rankings.

The claims covered a range of sectors, mainly trade, corporate and commercial, maritime and shipping, and construction and engineering.

Other categories of disputes included agriculture, arts and entertainment, aviation, energy, pharmaceuticals and hospitality.

Arbitrators appointed last year by the SIAC came from diverse jurisdictions, including Singapore, Britain, India, France, Lebanon, China and Germany.

Mr Chou Sean Yu, head of litigation and dispute resolution at WongPartnership, attributed the growth in cases to various factors.

They include the continued recognition of the SIAC as a world-class institution, the sophisticated legal infrastructure in Singapore backed by a supportive judiciary and the presence of top legal practitioners.

"The diverse users of SIAC, from both common and civil law systems, further reflect why Singapore is now one of the most preferred seats for arbitration in the world," he said.

Mr Adrian Tan, an experienced disputes lawyer from TSMP Law Corporation, said arbitration venues such as New York and Hong Kong are becoming less attractive amid growing conflict between the US and China.

"Singapore is growing in stature as a neutral arbitration venue which... has a transparent legal system and is efficient," he said.