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Legal framework

National arbitration laws
What legislation applies to arbitration in your jurisdiction?

Arbitration in Singapore is governed by the Arbitration Act (Cap 10) and the International Arbitration Act (Cap 143A).

The Arbitration Act applies to domestic arbitration – that is, arbitration where Singapore is the seat and where Part II of the International Arbitration Act does not apply. Part II of the International Arbitration Act applies to ‘international arbitration’, defined as arbitration where:

  • at least one of the parties to the arbitration agreement has its place of business in a state other than Singapore at the time when the agreement was concluded;
  • one of the following places is situated outside the state where the parties have their place of business:
    • the place of arbitration;
    • anywhere that a substantial part of the obligations of the commercial relationship is to be performed or the place to which the subject matter of the dispute is most closely connected; or
  • the parties have expressly agreed that the subject matter of the arbitration agreement relates to more than one country.

However, the International Arbitration Act may also apply to domestic arbitration if the parties have agreed in writing that Part II of the International Arbitration Act or the UNCITRAL Model Law applies.

Apart from the Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act, Singapore has also enacted the Arbitration (International Disputes) Act (Cap 11) to give effect to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States.

Mandatory laws
Are there any mandatory laws?

The Arbitration Act and International Arbitration Act contain certain mandatory provisions which cannot be derogated from by the parties (eg, those relating to the validity of the arbitration agreement).

Apart from this, the provisions regarding the procedure for arbitration proceedings are not mandatory and apply only toad hoc arbitration.

New York Convention
Is your country a signatory to the New York Convention? If so, what is the date of entry into force?

Singapore is a signatory to the New York Convention; it entered into force in Singapore on November 19 1986.

Are there any reservations to the general obligations of the convention?

Singapore has availed of the reciprocity reservation and will apply the convention to the recognition and enforcement of only those awards which are made in the territory of another contracting state.

Treaties and conventions
What other treaties and conventions in relation to arbitration is your jurisdiction party to?

Singapore is a party to various bilateral investment treaties and the Association of Southeast Asian Nationals (ASEAN) Comprehensive Investment Agreement, which provides for investor-state arbitration. In addition, Singapore is a party to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States.

UNCITRAL
Has your jurisdiction adopted the UNCITRAL Model Law?

Singapore has adopted the UNCITRAL Model Law, which is annexed to the First Schedule of the International Arbitration Act. However, Chapter VIII of the Model Law (regarding the recognition and enforcement of awards) does not have the force of law in Singapore. Instead, the recognition and enforcement of awards made in international arbitrations seated in Singapore and foreign arbitral awards are provided for in the International Arbitration Act and the New York Convention (which is annexed to the Second Schedule of the International Arbitration Act), respectively. 

Reform
Are there any impending plans to reform the arbitration laws in your jurisdiction?

Singapore‎ is considering amending its international arbitration laws to allow third-party funding. The Ministry of Law has announced that it will be commencing the public consultation process for proposed legislative amendments regarding third-party funding for international arbitrations.

Arbitration agreements

Validity
What are the validity requirements for an arbitration agreement?

In order for an arbitration agreement to be valid, it must contain an agreement by the parties to submit to arbitration all or certain disputes which have arisen or which may arise between them in respect of a defined legal relationship. The arbitration agreement may take the form of an arbitration clause in a contract or a separate agreement. Moreover, the arbitration agreement must be in writing. This requirement will be satisfied if the content of the arbitration agreement is recorded in any form, irrespective of whether it was concluded orally, by conduct or by other means. The arbitration agreement may also be contained in an electronic communication, provided that the information contained therein is accessible and useable for subsequent reference.

Enforcement of agreements
How are arbitration agreements enforced in your jurisdiction? What is the attitude of the national courts towards arbitration agreements?

There are two main ways in which arbitration agreements may be enforced by the local courts:

  • Domestic court proceedings are stayed in favour of arbitration.
  • An anti-suit injunction is issued to restrain a party from proceeding with foreign court proceedings instituted in breach of the arbitration agreement.

The Singapore courts are pro-arbitration and will seek to uphold arbitration agreements wherever possible. In particular, under the International Arbitration Act, the local courts must order a stay of court proceedings commenced in breach of an arbitration agreement unless the arbitration agreement is null and void, inoperative or incapable of being performed. The judiciary has no residual discretionary power to refuse a stay.

In contrast, under the Arbitration Act, the local courts have discretion to refuse to order a stay. However, this discretion will be exercised only in limited circumstances. For instance, the local courts may refuse to order a stay where the dispute involves multiple parties and not all of them are party to the arbitration agreement. In such case, the courts take the view that the commencement of arbitration would likely result in delay, extra costs and potentially inconsistent findings.

The different approaches under the Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act have arisen as a result of legislative intent for the local courts to have a greater degree of curial supervision over domestic arbitration, as compared to international arbitration. 

Consolidation
Can an arbitral tribunal with its seat in your jurisdiction consolidate separate arbitral proceedings under one or more contracts, and, if so, in what circumstances?

As arbitration is founded on consent, an arbitral tribunal may consolidate separate arbitral proceedings under one or more contracts if all of the arbitrating parties consent. Without such consent, the arbitral tribunal has no power to consolidate multiple proceedings, even if such proceedings involve the same parties and tribunal.

Choice of law
How is the substantive law of the dispute determined? Where the substantive law is unclear, how will a tribunal determine what it should be?

The substantive law of the dispute is determined by the arbitral tribunal, which under the Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act must decide the dispute in accordance with the law chosen by the parties. If no law has been chosen, the tribunal will apply the relevant conflict of laws principles to determine the appropriate substantive law. This involves ascertaining the parties’ intent from the circumstances or, where this is not possible, applying an objective test to determine which system of law has the closest and most real connection to the subject matter of the contract.

Separability
Are there any provisions on the separability of arbitration agreements?

The separability of arbitration agreements is covered in Section 21(2) of the Arbitration Act and Article 16(1) of the Model Law. These provisions allow an arbitral tribunal to rule on its own jurisdiction and provide that for this purpose, an arbitration clause which forms part of a contract shall be treated as an agreement independent of the other terms in the contract.

Multiparty agreements
Are multiparty agreements recognised?

Yes, multiparty agreements are recognised. A third party may be joined to the arbitration if all parties consent or if this is permitted by the relevant institutional rules that govern the arbitration. 

Arbitral tribunal

Criteria for arbitrators
Are there any restrictions?

Subject to the arbitration agreement between the parties, there are no restrictions on who may be appointed as an arbitrator.

Contractual stipulations
What can be stipulated about the tribunal in the agreement?

The Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act impose no restrictions on what may be stipulated about the tribunal in the arbitration agreement. On the contrary, the legislation expressly provides that parties are free to determine the number of arbitrators in the arbitral tribunal and the appointment procedure.

In practice, parties typically stipulate the number of tribunal members (one or three) and, if the arbitration is ad hoc, the appointment procedure.

Default requirements
Are there any default legal requirements as to the selection of a tribunal - for example, concerning the number of arbitrators or their characteristics?

The Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act provide for a default number of arbitrators and a default appointment procedure.

Under the Arbitration Act, the default number of arbitrators is one. If the appointment procedure is not specified in the arbitration agreement, the Arbitration Act provides for the following appointment procedure:

In an arbitration with three arbitrators, each party appoints one arbitrator and the parties appoint the third arbitrator by agreement. If a party fails to appoint an arbitrator within 30 days of receipt of a request to do so from the other party, or if the parties fail to agree on the appointment of the third arbitrator within 30 days of receipt of a request to do so by either party, the appointment shall be made, at the request of a party, by the appointing authority (eg, the chair of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre). Moreover, the appointing authority must have regard to the following factors when making the appointment:

  • the nature of the subject matter of the arbitration;
  • the availability of arbitrators;
  • the parties to the arbitration;
  • any suggestions made by the parties regarding the appointment of an arbitrator;
  • any qualifications required of the arbitrator under the arbitration agreement; and
  • any further considerations as are likely to secure the appointment of an independent and impartial arbitrators.

In an arbitration with a sole arbitrator, if the parties are unable to agree on the arbitrator, the arbitrator shall be appointed, at the request of a party, by the appointing authority, which must also consider the factors set out above.

Under the International Arbitration Act, the default number of arbitrators is one. The default appointment procedure is set out in the UNCITRAL Model Law and is the same as that set out in the Arbitration Act. However, instead of the factors set out above, the Model Law states that in appointing an arbitrator, the appointing authority must have regard to the following issues:

  • any qualifications required of the arbitrator by agreement of the parties;
  • any considerations that are likely to secure the appointment of an independent and impartial arbitrator; and
  • the advisability of appointing an arbitrator of a nationality other than those of the parties.

Challenging the appointment of an arbitrator
Can the appointment of an arbitrator be challenged? Can an arbitrator be disqualified? What is the procedure for this?

The appointment of an arbitrator may be challenged if there are justifiable doubts about his or her impartiality or independence, or if he or she does not possess the qualifications agreed to by the parties.

The parties are free to agree on the challenge procedure. However, if they fail to agree, the challenge procedure under the Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act is as follows:

  • The challenging party first submits a written statement setting out the reasons for the challenge to the arbitral tribunal. The deadline for doing so is 15 days after that party becomes aware of the constitution of the arbitral tribunal or of any circumstances giving rise to the challenge.
  • If the challenged arbitrator does not withdraw from office or if the other party does not agree to the challenge, the arbitral tribunal will rule on the challenge.
  • If the challenge is unsuccessful, the aggrieved party may apply to the local courts to remove the arbitrator. The deadline for doing so is 30 days from the date or which the unsuccessful party received the arbitral tribunal’s ruling. In the meantime, the arbitral tribunal is entitled to proceed with the arbitration.

Jurisdictional objections
How should an objection to jurisdiction be raised?

A jurisdictional challenge should be submitted to the arbitral tribunal in the first instance. This should be done promptly, and in any event no later than submission of the statement of defence. A party will not be precluded from raising a challenge simply because it has appointed or participated in the appointment of an arbitrator.

The arbitral tribunal may rule on the jurisdictional challenge as a preliminary question or in an award on the merits. If the tribunal rules on the jurisdictional challenge as a preliminary question, a dissatisfied party may apply to the local courts to decide the matter within 30 days of the tribunal’s ruling. Conversely, if the tribunal rules on the challenge as an award on the merits, a dissatisfied party may apply to set aside the award.

Replacement of an arbitrator
Why and how can an arbitrator be replaced?

An arbitrator may be replaced if there are justifiable doubts about his or her impartiality or independence, or if he or she does not possess the qualifications agreed to by the parties.

The parties are free to agree on the challenge procedure. However, if they fail to agree, the challenge procedure under the Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act is as follows:

  • The challenging party first submits a written statement setting out the reasons for the challenge to the arbitral tribunal. The deadline for doing so is 15 days after that party becomes aware of the constitution of the arbitral tribunal or of any circumstances giving rise to the challenge.
  • If the challenged arbitrator does not withdraw from office, or if the other party does not agree to the challenge, the arbitral tribunal will rule on the challenge.
  • If the challenge is unsuccessful, the aggrieved party may apply to the local courts to remove the arbitrator. The deadline for doing so is 30 days from the date or which the unsuccessful party received the arbitral tribunal’s ruling. In the meantime, the arbitral tribunal is entitled to proceed with the arbitration.

Assuming that the challenge is successful, the Arbitration Act and International Arbitration Act provide that a substitute arbitrator may be appointed based on the agreement of the parties. If the parties are unable to agree on the substitute arbitrator, the appointing authority (the chairman of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre) will make the appointment.

An arbitrator may also be removed if he or she fails to conduct the arbitration. The Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act differ slightly in this regard.

On one hand, the Arbitration Act expressly provides that an arbitrator may be removed if:

  • he or she is physically or mentally incapable of conducting the proceedings or there are justifiable doubts as to his or her capacity to do so; or
  • he or she has refused or failed to:
    • conduct the proceedings properly; or
    • use all reasonable despatch in conducting the proceedings or making an award and substantial injustice has been or will be caused to a party.

Procedurally, if a party wishes to remove the arbitrator on these grounds, it must approach the arbitral tribunal or the relevant arbitration institution (as appropriate) in the first instance. If that party is unsuccessful, it can apply to the local courts to remove the arbitrator. In the meantime, the arbitral tribunal is entitled to continue with the arbitration.

On the other hand, the International Arbitration Act states that an arbitrator may be removed if he or she becomes “de jure or de facto unable to perform his [or her] functions, or for other reasons fails to act without undue delay”. Practically speaking, while the Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act are worded differently, the matters which would warrant the removal of an arbitrator under the International Arbitration Act by reason of failure to act are similar to what is required under the Arbitration Act. Like the Arbitration Act, the International Arbitration Act provides that if the arbitrator does not withdraw from office, or if the parties do not agree on the termination of his or her mandate, an application may be made directly to the local courts to remove the arbitrator.

Powers and obligations
What powers and obligations do arbitrators have?

Under Singapore law, arbitrators have broad powers to make various orders and directions. For instance, they may make a direction or order to any party for:

  • security for costs;
  • discovery of documents and interrogatories;
  • giving of evidence by affidavit or the examination of a party or witness under oath or affirmation;
  • preservation and interim custody of any evidence for the purposes of the proceedings;
  • samples to be taken from, observation of or experiments to be conducted on any property which is or forms part of the subject matter of the dispute; and
  • preservation, interim custody or sale of any property which is or forms part of the subject matter of the dispute.

Arbitrators have a duty to act fairly and impartially, and to give each party a reasonable opportunity to present its case. They must also decide all issues before them and cannot delegate the duty to make decisions.

Liability of arbitrators
Are arbitrators immune from liability?

Under the Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act, arbitrators are immune from liability in respect of:

  • negligence in connection with anything done or omitted to be done in their capacity as arbitrators; or
  • any mistake of law, fact or procedure made in the course of the arbitral proceedings or in the making of the arbitral award.

Communicating with the tribunal
How do the parties communicate with the tribunal?

The parties may communicate with the tribunal in various forms (eg, letters or emails). They may also request that a hearing (either a physical meeting or a teleconference) be convened in order for various matters to be discussed.

The Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act specifically provide that all statements, documents or other information supplied to the arbitral tribunal by one party must be communicated to the other party.

Reaching decisions
Is unanimous agreement of the tribunal required? If there is disagreement, does the will of the majority suffice? What are the implications of this?

The Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act provide that a unanimous decision of the arbitral tribunal is not required; a majority decision will suffice. This ensures that the arbitration proceedings are conducted efficiently and avoids a situation where a tribunal is deadlocked.

However, any question of procedure may be decided by the presiding arbitrator if so authorised by the parties or all members of the arbitral tribunal.

Arbitrability
Are there any disputes incapable of being referred to arbitration?

A dispute cannot be referred to arbitration if it would be contrary to public policy to do so. Matters which are not arbitrable generally have a public dimension. For instance, a tribunal cannot determine claims which arise out of the insolvency regime in Singapore, since this would potentially impact on the rights of third parties. An arbitral tribunal is also precluded from adjudicating on criminal cases, which are within the exclusive purview of the local courts.

Can the arbitrability of a dispute be challenged?

Yes, the arbitrability of a dispute may be challenged. The challenge may be raised in the form of a jurisdictional challenge in the course of the arbitration proceedings. Alternatively, a party may apply to the local courts set aside an award on the basis that the dispute is not arbitrable.

Jurisdiction and competence-competence
Is the principle of competence-competence recognised in your jurisdiction? Can a party to an arbitration ask the courts to determine an issue relating to the tribunal’s jurisdiction and competence?

The Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act provide that an arbitral tribunal may rule on its own jurisdiction as a preliminary question or in an award on the merits. If the tribunal rules on the jurisdictional challenge as a preliminary question, a dissatisfied party may apply to the local courts to decide the matter within 30 days of the tribunal’s ruling. Conversely, if the arbitral tribunal rules on the challenge as an award on the merits, a dissatisfied party may apply to set aside the award.

Arbitral proceedings

Starting an arbitration proceeding
What is needed to commence arbitration?

In an institutional arbitration, the rules of the relevant arbitral institution set out the requirements which must be satisfied in order to commence arbitration proceedings. These requirements must be satisfied by the claimant.

However, if the arbitration is ad hoc, the Arbitration Act and International Arbitration Act provide that the arbitration is deemed to have commenced when the claimant requests that the dispute be referred to arbitration and this request is received by the respondent. 

Limitation periods
Are there any limitation periods for the commencement of arbitration?

Yes. The Limitation Act (Cap 163) and the Foreign Limitation Period Act (Cap 111A) determine the limitation periods for the commencement of arbitration proceedings in Singapore. The Limitation Act applies to arbitrations where the substantive law governing the dispute is Singapore law, while the Foreign Limitation Period Act applies to arbitrations where foreign law is the law which applies to the substance of the dispute.

Under the Limitation Act, the statutory limitation period for cases founded on contract or tort is six years. The Foreign Limitation Periods Act states that questions of limitation are substantive (as opposed to procedural) issues, and are determined by reference to the law of the contract (as opposed to the law of the seat). Thus, in a Singapore-seated arbitration where the law governing the substantive dispute is foreign law, the limitation period will be determined by application of that foreign law.

Procedural rules
Are there any procedural rules that arbitrators must follow?

In an institutional arbitration, an arbitrator must adhere to the procedural rules of the relevant arbitral institution. On the other hand, where the arbitration is ad hoc, the arbitrator must comply with the procedural rules set out in the Arbitration Act or the International Arbitration Act (as the case may be).

Apart from what is provided in the rules of the relevant arbitral institution and the applicable act, the parties are free to agree on the procedural rules that should apply to the arbitration. For instance, they may agree to adopt the International Bar Association Rules on the Taking of Evidence in International Arbitration.

Dissenting arbitrators
Are dissenting opinions permitted under the law of your jurisdiction?

Yes.

Judicial assistance
Can local courts intervene in proceedings?

The local courts cannot intervene in arbitration proceedings. However, the parties may apply to the local courts to determine applications regarding:

  • a challenge to an arbitrator’s appointment;
  • a challenge to a tribunal's jurisdiction; or
  • the removal of an arbitrator for failure or impossibility to act.

A party may also apply to the local courts for interim measures pending the constitution of the tribunal. 

Can the local courts assist in choosing arbitrators?

No.

What is the applicable law (and prevailing practice) where a respondent fails to participate in an arbitration? Can the courts compel parties to arbitrate? Can they issue subpoenas to third parties?

Under the Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act, the tribunal may continue with the arbitration if the respondent fails to participate. However, the tribunal will not regard the respondent’s non-participation as an admission of the claimant’s allegations.

A tribunal has no power to compel parties to arbitrate or to issue subpoenas to third parties. However, the Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act empower the local courts to issue subpoenas requiring a third party to testify or to produce documents in an arbitration.

Third parties
In what instances can third parties be bound by an arbitration agreement or award?

As arbitration is founded on consent, a third party generally cannot be bound by an arbitration agreement or an arbitral award except in limited circumstances, such as where:

  • the arbitration agreement was assigned or novated;
  • the arbitration agreement was entered into by an agent;
  • the corporate veil should be pierced; or
  • third-party beneficiaries are concerned and the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act (Cap 53B) applies.

Default language and seat
Unless agreed by the parties, what is the default language and location for arbitrations?

The Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act are silent on the default language and location for arbitrations. These matters must be determined by the arbitral tribunal in the absence of agreement between the parties. However, for institutional arbitrations, the rules of the relevant arbitral institution may contain provisions regarding the default language and location of the arbitration.

Gathering evidence
How is evidence obtained by the tribunal?

The tribunal is free to determine the procedure by which evidence should be gathered. Evidence is generally presented to the tribunal by the parties as part of the adversarial process. However, the International Arbitration Act provides that, unless the parties have agreed otherwise, a tribunal has the power to adopt inquisitorial processes (although this is unusual).

The tribunal usually convenes an oral hearing for the presentation of evidence. In some cases, it may decide to have the proceedings conducted on the basis of documents only.

In the course of the arbitration, the tribunal may also make orders or give directions for:

  • discovery of documents;
  • giving of evidence by affidavit;
  • samples to be taken from, observation of or experiments to be conducted on any property which is or forms part of the subject matter of the dispute; and
  • preservation, interim custody or sale of any property which is or forms part of the subject matter of the dispute. 

What kinds of evidence are acceptable?

Both documentary and oral evidence are acceptable.

Confidentiality
Is confidentiality ensured?

Arbitration proceedings are regarded as confidential in nature. Even if the matter is escalated to the local courts (eg, where an application to set aside an award is filed), the parties to the arbitration may apply to have the hearing conducted in chambers and for the court file to be sealed. 

Can information in arbitral proceedings be disclosed in subsequent proceedings?

No, unless the parties agree to such disclosure or the court orders that such information be disclosed. 

Ethical codes
What ethical codes and other professional standards, if any, apply to counsel and arbitrators conducting proceedings in your jurisdiction?

The relevant professional standards for counsel are set out in the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules 2015. These rules apply to every solicitor with a valid Singapore practising certificate and foreign counsel registered or regulated under the Legal Profession Act (Cap 161).

No national ethical codes or professional standards apply to arbitrators in Singapore. However, the various arbitral institutions may have their own ethical codes or professional standards which apply to arbitrators presiding in arbitrations governed by the rules of the relevant arbitral institution. For instance, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) has a Code of Ethics for an Arbitrator that applies to all arbitrators presiding in SIAC arbitrations.

Costs

Estimation & allocation
How are the costs of arbitration proceedings estimated and allocated?

In an institutional arbitration, the costs of the proceedings are determined by the relevant arbitral institution and/or the arbitrator. Conversely, in an ad hoc arbitration, the costs are determined by the arbitral tribunal; in the absence of such determination by the tribunal, the parties may apply to have their costs assessed in the local courts.

In terms of allocation, costs are generally awarded to the successful party.

Security for costs
Can the national court or tribunal order security for costs under the law in your jurisdiction?

An arbitral tribunal has the power to order security for costs under the Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act. However, it cannot order a claimant to provide security for costs on the sole basis that the claimant is:

  • an individual ordinarily resident outside Singapore; or
  • a corporation or association incorporated or formed under the law of a country outside Singapore, or whose central management and control is exercised outside Singapore.

As for the Singapore courts, they have the power to order security for costs only in respect of arbitrations governed by the Arbitration Act. Moreover, their order will cease to have effect in whole or in part (as the case may be) if the arbitral tribunal makes an order which expressly relates to the whole or part of the order by the Singapore court.

The award

Requirements
What legal requirements are there for recognition of an award? Must reasons be given for the award? Does the award need to be reviewed by any other body?

The legal requirements which must be satisfied in order for an award to be valid in Singapore are as follows:

  • The award must be in writing and signed:
    • in the case of a single arbitrator, by the arbitrator; or
    • in the case of two or more arbitrators, by all arbitrators or the majority of the arbitrators, provided that the reason for any omitted signature is stated.
  • The award must state the reasons on which it is based, unless the parties have agreed that no grounds are to be stated or the award is based on agreed terms.
  • The date of the award and place of arbitration must be stated in the award.

The award need not be reviewed by any other body, unless this is required by the rules of the relevant arbitral institution governing the arbitration, if any. 

Timeframe for delivery
Are there any time limits on delivery of the award?

The Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act stipulate no time limits for delivery of the award. However, in an institutional arbitration, this may be provided for in the rules of the relevant arbitral institution.

Remedies
Does the law impose limits on the available remedies? Are some remedies not enforceable by the court?

The Arbitration Act provides that, unless otherwise agreed by the parties, the tribunal may award any remedy or relief that could have been ordered by the Singapore court had the dispute been subject to civil proceedings in the courts. Similarly, under the International Arbitration Act, if Singapore law is chosen as the governing law, the tribunal may award any remedy or relief that could have been ordered by the Singapore court had the dispute been subject to civil proceedings in that court. The UNCITRAL Model Law also provides that, unless otherwise agreed by the parties, a tribunal may award any remedy or relief that is permitted under the relevant rules of law chosen by the parties. However, there may be enforcement issues if the remedy ordered by the tribunal offends public policy.

What interim measures are available? Will local courts issue interim measures pending constitution of the tribunal?

A party may seek various interim measures from the local courts under the Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act pending establishment of the arbitral tribunal.

Under the Arbitration Act, the courts have the power to make orders for:

  • security for costs;
  • discovery of documents and interrogatories;
  • giving of evidence by affidavit;
  • examination of a party or witness under oath or affirmation, and administration of any necessary oath or taking of any necessary affirmation for that purpose;
  • preservation and interim custody of any evidence for the purposes of the proceedings;
  • samples to be taken from, the observation of or experiments to be conducted on any property which is or forms part of the subject matter of the dispute;
  • preservation, interim custody or sale of any property which is or forms part of the subject matter of the dispute;
  • securing of the amount in dispute;
  • measures that ensure that any award which may be made in the arbitral proceedings is not rendered ineffectual by the dissipation of assets by a party; and
  • an interim injunction or any other interim measure.

Under the International Arbitration Act, the local courts also have the power to issue these orders, except for orders for security for costs and the discovery of documents and interviews.

However, any interim measures ordered by the local courts cease to have effect once the arbitral tribunal has been constituted and makes an order relating to the whole or part of the court order.

Interest
Can interest be awarded?

A tribunal may award interest (on either a simple or compound basis) on the whole or any part of any sum which: 

  • is awarded to any party for any period up to the date of the award;
  • is at issue in the arbitration proceedings, but paid before the date of the award; or
  • constitutes costs for any period up to the date of the payment.

At what rate?

The tribunal can award interest at the rate that it considers appropriate. Unless an award states otherwise, it will incur interest from the date of the award and at the same rate as the interest rate for court judgments in Singapore (presently 5.33% a year).

Finality
Is the award final and binding?

Yes, the Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act expressly provide that an award is final and binding.

What if there are any mistakes?

The Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act allow an arbitral tribunal to correct errors in computation, clerical or typographical errors or errors of a similar nature in the award. This may be done on:

  • the request of a party, which must be submitted within 30 days of the date of the award (unless parties have agreed on a different timeframe); or
  • the initiative of the tribunal, within 30 days of the date of the award.

If a party submits a request and the tribunal considers the request to be reasonable, it must make the request within 30 days of receipt of the request.

Can the parties exclude by agreement any right of appeal or other recourse that the law of your jurisdiction may provide?

Under the Arbitration Act (but not the International Arbitration Act), a party may file an appeal with the local courts regarding a question of law which arises out of an award. However, this right of appeal may be excluded by the parties.

In addition, both the Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act provide that a party may apply to set aside an award. The issue of whether parties may contractually exclude the right to set aside an award has not been decided in Singapore.

Appeal
What is the procedure for challenging awards?

The Arbitration Act allows a party to make an application to the local courts to determine a question of law which arises out of an award. However, that party must first exhaust:

  • any available arbitral process of appeal or review;
  • any available recourse regarding the correction or interpretation of the award; and
  • any available recourse regarding the rendering of an additional award. In this regard, the Arbitration Act provides that after the award has been rendered, a party may request that the tribunal give an interpretation on a specific point or part of the award.

An appeal may be brought only with the agreement of all parties to the proceedings, or with the leave of the court. Leave to appeal will be given only if the court is satisfied that:

  • determination of the question will substantially affect the rights of one or more parties;
  • the question is one which the arbitral tribunal was asked to determine;
  • on the basis of the findings of fact in the award:
    • the decision of the arbitral tribunal on the question was obviously wrong; or
    • the question is one of general public importance and the decision of the arbitral tribunal is open to serious doubt; and
  • despite the agreement of the parties to resolve the matter by arbitration, it is just and proper in all circumstances for the court to determine the question.

After hearing the appeal, the court may:

  • confirm the award;
  • vary the award;
  • remit the award to the arbitral tribunal, in whole or in part, for reconsideration in light of the court’s determination; or
  • set aside the award in whole or in part.

As for the procedure for setting aside an award, the application to the local courts must be filed within three months from the date that the parties received the award or, if the award has been corrected by the tribunal, within three months of the date of the correction being made.

On what grounds can parties appeal an award?

Under the Arbitration Act (but not the International Arbitration Act), a party may file an appeal with the local courts regarding a question of law which arises out of an award. However, this right of appeal may be excluded by the parties.

In addition, both the Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act provide that a party may apply to set aside an award. The issue of whether parties may contractually exclude the right to set aside an award has not been decided in Singapore.

The Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act provide that an award can be set aside if one of the following exclusive grounds applies:

  • A party to the arbitration agreement was incapacitated.
  • The arbitration agreement is invalid under the law to which it is subject or failing any indication thereon, under the laws of Singapore.
  • The party making the application was not given proper notice of the appointment of an arbitrator or of the arbitral proceedings, or was otherwise unable to present its case.
  • The award deals with a dispute not contemplated by or not falling within the terms of the submission to arbitration, or contains decisions on matters beyond the scope of the submission to arbitration, except where decisions on matters submitted to arbitration can be separated from those not so submitted, in which case only that part of the award which contains decisions on matters not submitted to arbitration may be set aside.
  • The composition of the arbitral tribunal or the arbitral procedure did not accord with the agreement of the parties or, in the absence of such agreement, was contrary to the Arbitration Act or the International Arbitration Act (as the case may be).
  • The making of the award was induced or affected by fraud or corruption.
  • A breach of the rules of natural justice occurred in connection with the making of the award, by which the rights of any party have been prejudiced.
  • The subject matter of the dispute is incapable of settlement by arbitration.
  • The award is contrary to public policy.

Enforcement
What steps can be taken to enforce the award if there is a failure to comply?

A party can apply to the Singapore court for leave to enforce the award as a judgment of the Singapore High Court. In this connection, both the arbitration agreement and the duly authenticated award must be submitted. Assuming that the award is not set aside and the judgment debtor does not resist enforcement, the successful party can take various steps to enforce the award in Singapore after leave has been obtained from the court. Such steps may include filing garnishee proceedings and obtaining a writ of seizure and sale in respect of the award debtor’s assets in Singapore. 

Can awards be enforced in local courts?

Yes. A party can apply to the Singapore court for leave to enforce the award as a judgment of the Singapore High Court. In this connection, both the arbitration agreement and the duly authenticated award must be submitted. Assuming that the award is not set aside and the judgment debtor does not resist enforcement, the successful party can take various steps to enforce the award in Singapore after leave has been obtained from the court. Such steps may include filing garnishee proceedings and obtaining a writ of seizure and sale in respect of the award debtor’s assets in Singapore.

How enforceable is the award internationally?

This depends on the laws of the foreign jurisdiction in which enforcement is sought. However, as Singapore is a signatory to the New York Convention, the award should be enforceable in countries which are a party to the convention. 

To what extent might a state or state entity successfully raise a defence of state or sovereign immunity at the enforcement stage?

The State Immunity Act (Cap 313) provides that the property of a state shall not be subject to any process for the enforcement of an arbitration award or in an action in rem for its arrest, detention or sale. However, an exception applies where the property concerned is being used or intended for use for commercial purposes. In addition, a state may have also waived its right to raise state immunity by prior written consent. 

Are there any other bases on which an award may be challenged, and if so, by what?

No.

How enforceable are foreign arbitral awards in your jurisdiction?

The Singapore courts are pro-enforcement and a foreign arbitral award will be refused enforcement only on limited grounds set out in the New York Convention, as follows:

  • The parties to the arbitration agreement were incapacitated or the agreement is invalid.
  • The award debtor was not given proper notice of the appointment of an arbitrator or of the arbitral proceedings, or was otherwise unable to present its case.
  • The award deals with a dispute not falling within the terms of the submission to arbitration, or contains decisions on matters beyond the scope of the submission to arbitration.
  • The composition of the arbitral tribunal or the arbitral procedure did not accord with the agreement of the parties or, in the absence of such agreement, was contrary to the Arbitration Act or the International Arbitration Act.
  • The award has not yet become binding on the parties or has been set aside or suspended by the relevant authority of the country which was the seat of arbitration.
  • The subject matter of the dispute is incapable of settlement by arbitration under the law of Singapore.
  • The award is contrary to public policy.

Will an award that has been set aside by the courts in the seat of arbitration be enforced in your jurisdiction?

The local courts may not enforce an award that has been set aside at the seat of arbitration. 

Third-party funding

Rules and restrictions
Are there rules or restrictions on third-party funders?

At present, third-party funding is not allowed, as the common law doctrines of champerty and maintenance apply in Singapore.

Class-action or group arbitration

Concept
Is there a concept in your jurisdiction providing for class-action arbitration or group arbitration? If so, are there any limitations to the arbitrability of such claims or requirements that must be met before such claims may be arbitrated?

No.

Hot topics

Emerging trends
Are there any hot topics or trends emerging in arbitration in your jurisdiction?

Third-party funding for arbitration has been a hot topic in Singapore for some time. At the same time, the legal community in Singapore is considering whether arbitration will remain a popular form of dispute resolution in Singapore in the long term, given the recent establishment of the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC). The SICC provides parties with various advantages commonly associated with arbitration (eg, confidentiality of the proceedings and choice of foreign counsel representation in matters that have been designated as ‘offshore’ cases).