Within just 15 years, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) has become a reputable arbitration institute that is often taken into consideration when concluding arbitration clauses for contracts relating to Asia. Parties negotiating arbitration clauses can now make good use of the statistics published by the SIAC on 25 February 2016. Parties seeking to include SIAC arbitration in their contract can point to the continued strong growth in case numbers and the considerable value at stake in SIAC arbitrations. Depending on the specific contract at issue, parties seeking to include arbitration at, for example, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) may point out that the average amount in dispute at the SIAC is still significantly lower than in ICC arbitration and that only 10% of SIAC arbitrations relate to civil law contracts (60% are under Singapore law). But parties should in our view not attach too much importance to the choice between ICC and SIAC arbitration. Both institutions are good choices.
When negotiating arbitration clauses, parties regularly refer to statistics that the various arbitration institutes publish. Arbitration institutes publish these statistics to demonstrate their experience. This is considered to be relevant since the arbitration institute usually appoints the chair of the tribunal in cases where parties or co-arbitrators cannot agree (and also in various other situations). Experience with different types of cases and arbitrators can assist in making those appointments.
The latest SIAC statistics show that 271 new cases were filed with the SIAC in 2015. This is a 22% increase compared to the 222 new cases filed with the SIAC in 2014. The SIAC’s popularity is clearly growing strongly. It can now be compared to the London Court of Arbitration (LCIA) and the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC). Considering its age, it is logical that the number of new SIAC cases does not match the number of new cases at the ICC, which had about three times more new cases in 2015. Since around 20% – 25% of the parties in ICC arbitrations are from Asia Pacific, the ICC is a competitor for the SIAC in the region.
The average value of SIAC disputes has been constant over the last three years, around SGD 23 million, the equivalent of USD 16 million. This appears to be two times as high as the average value of cases at the HKIAC and seven times higher than the average value at the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (although this is based on older data). The SIAC is thus doing well in the region, even though the average value is still considerably less than the average value of USD 63 million at the ICC. In previous years, the SIAC also published more detailed information, which showed that around 15% of the cases exceeded SGD 10 million (USD 7 million) in value.
The latest available data for the ICC shows that 33% of the cases involved a value of more than USD 10 million. Considering that the ICC’s caseload is also higher, this suggests that the ICC deals with six times more high-value cases than the SIAC.
Finally, of all the arbitrations at the SIAC, around 60% are governed by Singapore law and nearly 90% are governed by common law systems. This also seems to have an effect on the nationality of the arbitrators appointed by the SIAC. Around one third of the arbitrators are Singapore nationals and another third are from the UK or Australia. Parties favouring the inclusion of an ICC arbitration clause in a civil law contract may thus argue that the SIAC has less experience with appointing arbitrators in civil law cases.
While this shows how parties can use statistics in their negotiations regarding arbitration clauses, in our view it would be excessive to attach decisive importance to such statistics. At the end of the day, both the ICC and the SIAC are reputable institutes, and there are many other acceptable choices as well.