On 22 August 2023, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre ("SIAC") released its much-awaited Draft 7th Edition of the SIAC Rules (the "Draft Rules") as part of its "Public Consultation" process with regard to the Draft Rules. The Draft Rules aim to incorporate significant improvements to the already robust and effective SIAC Arbitration Rules (6th Edition, 1 August 2016), with a focus on addressing users' need for greater "efficiency, expedition and cost-effectiveness" in arbitration.
One of the major revisions to this end is the introduction of an innovative Streamlined Procedure for the conduct of arbitration, which is intended to be an additional, alternative framework to the existing standard SIAC arbitration procedure and the Expedited Procedure ("EP") under the current Rules. In this newsflash, we highlight and discuss the key features of this proposed mechanism.
While the EP was introduced in 2010 as a "special, 'fast-track' procedure" for a speedier resolution of disputes under the SIAC Rules, the Streamlined Procedure aims to be an even 'faster-track' procedure to cater to disputes which require that added degree of time and cost efficiency.
In this regard, the Streamlined Procedure sets a default rule for the issuance of the final Award within three months from the constitution of the Tribunal, half the duration of the EP, which is six months. To achieve this goal, the Streamlined Procedure envisages, amongst other things:
Furthermore, the Streamlined Procedure offers a substantial "discount" on the Tribunal's fees and SIAC fees, which shall not exceed 50 percent of the maximum amounts calculated in accordance with the SIAC Schedule of Fees, unless the Registrar determines otherwise. This does not apply to the EP.
The Streamlined Procedure is primarily intended for cases with an amount in dispute not exceeding S$1,000,000 (as opposed to the revised threshold of S$10,000,000 under the amended EP in the Draft Rules). The Streamlined Procedure therefore aims to provide a type of "faster-track" procedure for (generally) smaller value disputes, though it may still apply if parties agree or if the circumstances "warrant" the Streamlined Procedure. For example, disputes over short-term supply contracts may require a quick and final determination of the parties' rights within three months, rather than in six months or even years, so that parties may better plan for pressing downstream or upstream obligations. Users with strict cost requirements (such as small or medium enterprises) will also appreciate the shorter procedure which translates into lower legal costs, as well as the discount on SIAC's and the arbitrator's fees.
A further objective of the Streamlined Procedure is to promote the development of younger arbitration practitioners in the role of Arbitrator. As discussed at the recent SIAC Symposium on 28 August 2023, the nature of disputes that would come under the Streamlined Procedure would likely allow more opportunities for younger practitioners to be appointed as arbitrators. This is another commendable step by SIAC towards greater (age) diversity in international arbitration.
The introduction of the Streamlined Procedure is therefore to be welcomed as a promising, innovative mechanism which addresses the specific needs arising from some types of disputes and/or users and the recurring calls by users for more time and cost efficiency in international arbitration.
The public may submit feedback on the Draft Rules directly to SIAC during the Public Consultation period from 22 August to 21 November 2023.
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