SIAC’s draft 7th Edition of its Rules and the possible Impact

With DIAC aiming to become the world’s leading arbitral institution, I’ve been closely observing the developments at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), which has seen a consistent rise in its case load since its last rule update in 2016. In 2015, they handled 271 new cases, which increased to 357 in 2022. The first quarter of 2023 witnessed a historic high with 332 new cases.

SIAC has recently unveiled the draft 7th Edition of its Rules.

Some of the noteworthy changes include:

  • Streamlined Procedure (Draft Rule 13):This procedure is introduced as an alternative to the existing Expedited Procedure. It’s available when parties agree to its use, the dispute amount is under S$1,000,000 (about US$740,000), or if SIAC’s President deems it suitable for the case. Under this process, parties have 3 days to nominate a sole arbitrator, and if they fail, the SIAC President will appoint one within 3 days. The sole arbitrator has flexibility in setting the timeline but must deliver a final award within 3 months, unless an extension is granted.
  • Expedited Procedure (Draft Rule 14):  The scope of this procedure has expanded from a limit of S$6,000,000 (about US$4.4 million) to S$10,000,000 (about US$7.4 million). The “exceptional urgency” requirement is removed. Under Draft Rule 14.1, the final award must be issued within 6 months from the tribunal’s constitution, extendable by the Registrar.
  • Preliminary Determinations (Draft Rule 46):Parties can now apply for a preliminary determination of any issue in arbitration if both parties agree or if it can save time and costs or align with the case’s circumstances. The tribunal must make a decision or award within 45 days of the application’s filing, unless the Registrar extends the timeline.
  • Coordinated Arbitration Procedures (Draft Rule 17):When the same tribunal is constituted in multiple arbitrations with common legal or factual questions, the tribunal may opt for concurrent, sequential, joint hearings or suspension pending a determination.
  • Third-Party Funding (Draft Rule 38):Parties must disclose third-party funding agreements and the funder’s identity. Such agreements shouldn’t create a conflict of interest after the tribunal’s constitution.
  • Publication of Redacted Awards (Draft Rule 60):The default now leans toward publication, with party and identifying information redacted, unless either party objects within six months after arbitration’s conclusion.
  • Challenge of Arbitrators (Draft Rule 26.1):Two grounds for challenge are added: if an arbitrator can’t perform their duties or if they fail to act within the Rules or prescribed time limits. However, challenges may introduce delays and costs, and a “challenge filing fee” is required.
  • Diversity & Inclusion (Draft Rule 19.5):The SIAC President must consider “principles of diversity and inclusion” when appointing an arbitrator under the Draft Rules.

SIAC is open to public comments on these Draft Rules until November 21, 2023. If you wish to provide feedback or have questions, feel free to reach out to me or the other members of KBH’s International Arbitration Team.