UPDATE ON ARBITRATION IN SINGAPORE
This article was published in the Advoc Commercial Dispute Resolution, Litigation and Arbitration news update.
International Arbitration in Singapore
Singapore has become a favoured place for arbitration, especially in Asia, with strong legislative and judicial support for arbitration as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism. International arbitrations conducted in Singapore are governed by the Singapore International Arbitration Act (the “IAA”), which adopts the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration.
The New Section 12A of the IAA
Prior to 2010, section 12(7) of the IAA gave the High Court of Singapore powers to grant interim relief (as set out in section 12(1)(a)-(i) of the IAA) in aid of arbitration.
However, in decisions such as Swift-fortune v Magnifica Marine SA (2006) and Front Carriers Ltd v Atlantic & Orient Shipping Corporation (2006), the Singapore Courts took divergent views as to whether they were empowered to order interim measures under section 12(7) in aid of foreign arbitration (as opposed to international arbitrations conducted in Singapore).
As such, the IAA was amended in 2010 by deleting section 12(7) and introducing a new section 12A. The new section 12A makes clear that the Singapore High Court has the necessary power to grant interim relief in support of arbitration conducted outside Singapore. The interim measures the Court may grant in aid of foreign arbitrations are making orders for giving evidence by affidavit, the preservation and/or interim custody and/or sale and/or evidence-taking of the subject-matter of the dispute, securing the amount in dispute, mareva injunctions and for any other interim injunctions or ‘any other interim measure’.
Limited Judicial Intervention
In Tjong Very Sumito and others v Antig Investments Pte Ltd (2009), Justice of Appeal V.K. Rajah said ‘the role of the court is now to support, and not to displace, the arbitral process’.
In order to encourage arbitration tribunals to decide on procedural or evidential matters concerning the actual conduct of the arbitration, the Singapore Courts are no longer empowered to order interim relief under section 12(1)(a) and (b) of the IAA with regard to discovery or interrogatories and security for costs.
In Equinox Offshore Accommodation v Richshore Marine Supplies Pte Ltd (2010), the Singapore High Court noted that the recent amendments to the IAA restrict the Court’s power to grant orders for discovery and therefore held that it had no jurisdiction to order pre-arbitral discovery.
In PT Pukuafu Indah and others v Newmont Indonesia Ltd and another (2012), the Singapore High Court observed that the court’s powers to set aside interlocutory orders dealing with procedural and administrative issues should be limited because these issues fall within the province of the arbitral tribunal and should be decided solely by the tribunal. The Court therefore in this case refused to set aside an interim injunction granted by the tribunal.
More Recent Amendments in 2012
In order to strengthen the framework for the conduct of the international arbitration, the IAA has been further fine-tuned by way of recent amendments in 2012. The notable changes include the provision for emergency arbitrators and the tribunal’s power to award interest (either simple or compound). The Courts have also been empowered to review negative rulings by arbitral tribunals (i.e., that the tribunal does not have jurisdiction) at any stage of the arbitration proceedings.
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