The Queen Mary University of London School of International Arbitration has released its 6th International Arbitration Survey, focusing on Improvements and Innovations in International Arbitration. This latest instalment of the survey on arbitration practices and trends worldwide is the largest yet, with 763 questionnaire responses and 105 personal interviews from private practitioners, in- house counsel, arbitrators, judges and government officials.
Notably, Singapore has performed remarkably well in the eyes of the international community. The results show that Singapore is regarded as one of the most preferred and improved seats of arbitration, and that the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (“SIAC”) is, correspondingly, one of the most preferred and improved arbitral institutions.
Preferred Seats and Institutions
From the results of the survey, Singapore has emerged as the most improved arbitral seat over the past 5 years. The main factors of improvement include hearing facilities and quality arbitrators, as well as enhanced national legal infrastructure.
Singapore is also one of the 5 most preferred and widely used seats, alongside London, Paris, Hong Kong and Geneva. This is a reflection of the ability of these seats to meet the primary selection criteria of reputation and recognition, as well as the provision of formal legal infrastructure, an impartial legal system, and a track record on enforcing arbitral awards and proceedings.
Apart from Singapore as a seat of arbitration, the SIAC has also fared well as one of the 5 most preferred arbitral institutions, alongside the ICC, LCIA, HKIAC and SCC. These institutions were deemed to have the best quality of administration, level of internationalism, as well as reputation and recognition.
The SIAC also ranks amongst the most improved arbitral institutions, indicating its achievements in increased efficiency and level of administration.
Views on International Arbitration
On a more general note, respondents also provided their views on the current state of international arbitration.
Notably, 90% of respondents indicated that international arbitration is their preferred method of resolving cross-border disputes. The characteristics of arbitration most valued by respondents speak of the suitability of the dispute resolution mechanism in an international context, such as the enforceability of awards and the avoidance of specific legal systems. Respondents also value the inherent flexibility of arbitration, including the ability to select arbitrators and the confidentiality of the process.
However, respondents also listed what they saw as the worst traits of international arbitration and overwhelmingly highlighted costs as the main drawback. Respondents also voiced concern over other procedural issues, such as the lack of effective sanctions during arbitration, as well as the lack of speed and insight into an arbitrator’s efficiency.
In order to address concerns over time and costs, respondents indicated an appreciation for tribunals committing to a schedule of deliberation and issuance of awards. Respondents also favoured the inclusion of simplified procedures for smaller claims.
Singapore’s performance in this comprehensive international survey is indeed heartening, and reflects the advancements it has made in its path towards becoming a regional hub for the resolution of cross-border commercial disputes. Singapore’s progress in arbitration is in step with its progress in the accompanying areas of mediation and litigation, as the SIAC is supported by the dispute resolution mechanisms of the Singapore Mediation Centre and the recently launched Singapore International Commercial Court.
The survey also brings up areas of concern when approaching international arbitration. In particular, it highlights the need to manage and schedule the arbitration process so as to control time and costs, and thus avoid any potential inefficiency in the system.