A new version of the HKIAC’s Administered Arbitration Rules (2018 Rules) will come into effect on 1 November 2018 together with a Practice Note on the Appointment of Arbitrators. The revisions to the current Rules are usefully summarised on the HKIAC’s website, as follows:

Subject

Amendments

Online Delivery of Documents (Articles 3.1(e), 3.3 and 3.4)

Parties may agree to deliver documents through the use of a secured online repository – a new method of delivery recognised by the 2018 Rules. Where a document is uploaded onto an online repository, the date of receipt shall be determined according to the time at the place of receiving a notice of the upload.

Parties may agree to use their own repositories or a dedicated repository provided by HKIAC.

Use of Technology for Determination of Procedures (Article 13.1)

The effective use of technology has been identified as a factor to be considered by an arbitral tribunal when determining suitable procedures for the conduct of an arbitration.

Disclosure, Costs and Confidentiality of Third Party Funding (Articles 34.4, 44 and 45.3(e))

A funded party is required to disclose promptly the existence of a funding agreement, the identity of the funder and any subsequent changes to such information. A funded party is permitted to disclose arbitration-related information to its existing and potential funder. These provisions are broadly in line with the relevant amendments to the Hong Kong Arbitration Ordinance (“Ordinance”).

The 2018 Rules also expressly allow an arbitral tribunal to take into account any third-party funding arrangement in fixing and apportioning the costs of arbitration.

Expanded Provisions for Single Arbitration under Multiple Contracts (Article 29)

The scope of the provisions on single arbitration under multiple contracts has been broadened by allowing a party to commence a single arbitration under several arbitration agreements even if the parties to the arbitration are not bound by each of the arbitration agreements.

Any question as to whether a single arbitration has been properly commenced under Article 29 shall be decided by the arbitral tribunal once constituted under Article 19.4 or, where the tribunal is not yet constituted, by HKIAC when deciding whether to proceed under Article 19.5.

Concurrent Proceedings (Article 30)

The 2018 Rules provide an express basis for an arbitral tribunal to conduct multiple arbitrations at the same time, one immediately after another, or suspend any of the arbitrations until the determination of any other of them. The tribunal may do so if the same tribunal is constituted in each arbitration and a common question of law or fact arises in all the arbitrations, after consulting the parties. The test for concurrent proceedings is broader than that for consolidation. As a result, concurrent proceedings may be conducted in situations where consolidation is not possible or desirable.

Early Determination Procedure (Article 43)

The Early Determination Procedure empowers an arbitral tribunal to determine a point of law or fact that is manifestly without merit or manifestly outside of the tribunal’s jurisdiction, or a point of law or fact that, assuming it is correct, would not result in an award being rendered in favour of the party that submitted such point.

The tribunal must decide whether to proceed with a request for early determination within 30 days from the date of the request. If the request is allowed to proceed, the tribunal must issue an order or award, which may be in summary form, on the relevant point within 60 days from the date of its decision to proceed. These time limits may be extended by HKIAC or party agreement. Pending the determination of the request, the tribunal may decide how to proceed with the underlying arbitration.

Use of alternative means of dispute settlement (e.g. arb-med-arb) (Article 13.8)

After the commencement of an arbitration, where the parties agree to pursue alternative means of settling their dispute (e.g. mediation, conciliation or negotiation) a party may request HKIAC, the arbitral tribunal or emergency arbitrator to suspend the arbitration or emergency arbitrator procedure, as applicable. A party may request that the arbitration or emergency arbitrator procedure be resumed at any time during or after the alternative process. Upon such request, the arbitration or emergency arbitrator procedure shall proceed.

Emergency Arbitrator Procedure (Article 23.1 and Schedule 4)

A party may file an application for the appointment of an emergency arbitrator before the commencement of an arbitration, provided that a Notice of Arbitration is submitted to HKIAC within seven days unless the emergency arbitrator extends this time limit.

An emergency arbitrator, once appointed, will apply the same test for interim measures under Article 23 when considering an application for emergency relief.

All time limits under the Emergency Arbitrator Procedure have been shortened. The total fees of an emergency arbitrator are subject to a maximum amount which will be notified on HKIAC’s website.

Time of Delivering Awards (Article 31.2)

After the arbitral proceedings are declared closed, the arbitral tribunal is required to notify the parties and HKIAC of the anticipated date of delivering an arbitral award. The date of delivering the award shall be within three months from the closure of the proceedings or relevant phase of the proceedings. This time limit may be extended by HKIAC or party agreement.

The Practice Note on the Appointment of Arbitrators sets out the HKIAC’s general practice of appointing arbitrators in:

  • arbitrations administered by HKIAC under its Administered Arbitration Rules;
  • arbitrations administered by HKIAC under the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules;
  • ad hoc arbitrations under the Arbitration Ordinance (Cap 609), the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules and any other arbitration rules issued by HKIAC; and
  • any other arbitration in which the parties agree that the Practice Note shall apply.

The Practice Note also applies to HKIAC’s appointment of emergency arbitrators.

The Practice Notes covers:

  • the appointment process (including factors considered by HKIAC when making an appointment e.g. qualifications, availability, fees, nature and complexity of dispute);
  • nationality of sole and presiding arbitrators (e.g. where the parties are of different nationalities, HKIAC will not generally appoint a sole/presiding arbitrator of the same nationality as any of the parties, unless the parties agree otherwise);
  • diversity of qualified arbitrators (HKIAC will include, wherever possible, qualified female candidates and qualified candidates of any age, ethnic group, legal or cultural background among those it considers for arbitrator appointments).

The new provisions should be welcomed by parties to arbitration proceedings, in particular, the 3-month time limit for the arbitrator to deliver the award, as in our experience it is often much longer than this.