INTRODUCTION

The Singapore International Arbitration Centre ("SIAC") has released the fifth edition of its arbitration rules ("2013 Rules"). The 2013 Rules came into effect on 1st April 2013, and will apply to arbitration proceedings commenced on or after 1 April 2013, unless the parties have agreed otherwise.

THE SIAC BOARD AND SIAC COURT

The most noteworthy development under the 2013 Rules is the establishment of a new governance structure. With the latest amendments, the Board of Directors ("SIAC Board") will focus solely on the corporate and business development functions of the SIAC, and will not have any function under the 2013 Rules. The newly established Court of Arbitration ("SIAC Court") will oversee the case administration work of the SIAC Secretariat, perform quasi-judicial functions (such as deciding challenges to arbitrators and objections to the prima facie jurisdiction of SIAC), and determine matters of arbitration policy. The President of the Court will perform the roles previously assigned under the old rules to the SIAC Chairman. The former Chairman of SIAC, Professor Michael Pryles, has been named as the first President of the Court. Mr Lucien Wong will chair the Board of Directors.

Also of note is the new rule 36.1, which provides that the decisions of the President, the SIAC Court and the Registrar on all matters relating to a SIAC arbitration shall be conclusive and binding upon the parties and the arbitral tribunal ("Tribunal"). Reasons for their decisions need not be provided. In addition, rule 36.2 provides that parties shall be taken to have waived any right of appeal or review to any state court or judicial authority in respect of any decisions of the President, SIAC Court or Registrar.

RULE CHANGES

The 2013 Rules also introduce a number of important changes.

Investment treaty arbitrations

Rule 3.1(d), which sets out the requirements for a valid Notice of Arbitration, now extends the jurisdiction of the SIAC to cover disputes arising under an investment treaty or other instrument conferring jurisdiction upon the SIAC.

Power and discretion of Registrar

The Registrar has been afforded greater power and control of the arbitral process. For example, under the new rule 2.5, the Registrar may extend or shorten any time limits prescribed under the rules. Rule 3.3 also allows the Registrar to deem an arbitration has commenced notwithstanding deficiencies in the Notice of Arbitration, as long as there has been substantial compliance with the requirements listed in rule 3.1. It is now the Registrar, rather than the SIAC Court, which has the power to scrutinise an award – see rule 28. These provisions seek to ensure a more streamlined process, and may preclude parties from relying on technical arguments regarding compliance with form and timelines to frustrate the expeditious progress of proceedings.

Jurisdictional challenges

Under rule 25.1, the Registrar will first determine whether an objection as to the existence or validity of the arbitration agreement or to the competence of the SIAC to administer the arbitration should be referred by the Registrar to the SIAC Court. The rule nevertheless defers to the principle of Kompetenz-Kompetenz1 by specifying that the decision of the Registrar or the SIAC court is without prejudice to the power of the Tribunal to rule on its own jurisdiction.

Powers of Tribunal to decide issues not expressly or impliedly raised in submissions

Consistent with the recent Singapore Court of Appeal decision in PT Prima International Development v. Kempinski Hotels SA [2012] 4 SLR 98, SIAC tribunals may now decide any issue not expressly or impliedly raised in the parties’ submissions, so long as such issue has been clearly brought to the notice of the other party who has been given adequate opportunity to respond.

Costs

Separate advances on costs may be fixed for a claimant and a respondent when a counter-claim is filed (rule 30.2)

Rule 33, which grants the tribunal authority to award the legal or other costs of one party, no longer excludes the costs of the arbitration. Parties may therefore be held liable to pay the fees of the institution and the arbitrators, over and above legal costs. This provides tribunals with greater latitude and control over the conduct of an arbitration.

Post-award interest

Under rule 28.7, a tribunal may now award interest in respect of any period which it deems appropriate, including post-award interest. This brings the SIAC Rules in line with the amended section 20 of Singapore’s International Arbitration Act (Cap. 143A).

Publication of redacted awards

Rule 28.10 expressly allows the SIAC to publish any award ‘with the names of the parties and other underlying information redacted’. Although other institutions provide for the publication of redacted awards (such as rule 30.3 of the London Court of International Arbitration rules), this is generally subject to the agreement of parties. The new rule therefore represents a bold step. It remains to be seen if in practice the SIAC will consult parties prior to publication to ensure how the confidentiality of the proceedings is best preserved.

CONCLUSION

The changes to the SIAC’s governance structure will enable it to meet the challenges of an ever-burgeoning case load. The other amendments to the rules also go some way to reinforcing stability and certainty in the arbitral process, and reflect the SIAC’s commitment to ensure that it is at the forefront of developments in international arbitration. These changes will help reinforce the SIAC’s position as an international arbitration institution of choice.