Arbitration agreements

What are the formal requirements for an enforceable arbitration agreement?

Under the AA and the IAA, an arbitration agreement means an agreement by the parties to submit to arbitration all or certain disputes that have arisen or that may arise between them in respect of a defined legal relationship. An arbitration agreement may be in the form of a separate agreement or an arbitration clause in a contract. To be enforceable, it must be in writing, in that its content must be recorded in any form, including electronic communications.

Arbitral procedure

Does the domestic law contain substantive requirements for the procedure to be followed?

The AA and the IAA allow parties and the arbitral tribunal wide discretion to decide on the procedure to be followed for the arbitration. However, both statutes contemplate the exchange of statements of claim and defences and provide that parties must be given sufficient advance notice of any hearings or meetings of the arbitral tribunal, and that all statements, documents or other information supplied by one party to the arbitral tribunal must also be supplied to the other party, and that any expert report or evidentiary document upon which the arbitral tribunal may rely in making its decision shall be communicated to the parties.


When and in what form must the award be delivered?

Subject to the agreement of parties and any written law, there is no specified time frame for when an award must be rendered. For example, the SIAC Arbitration Rules 2016 provide that for emergency arbitrations, the emergency arbitrator must make his or her interim order or award within 14 days from the date of his or her appointment, unless, in exceptional circumstances, an extension of time is granted, and for non-emergency arbitrations, the tribunal must submit the draft award to the registrar not later than 45 days from the date on which proceedings closed.

An award under the AA and the IAA must be in writing and signed by the arbitrator or a majority of the arbitrators (provided that the reason for any omitted signature of any arbitrator is stated), and must set out the date of the award and place of arbitration and, unless the parties have agreed to dispense with such, the reasons upon which the award is based.


On what grounds can an award be appealed to the court?

Under the AA, a party to arbitral proceedings may (upon notice to the other parties and to the arbitral tribunal) appeal to the court on a question of law arising out of an award made in the arbitration proceedings. The appeal should only be brought with the agreement of all the other parties to the proceedings or with the leave of court. The court will only grant leave to appeal if it is satisfied that:

  • the determination of the question will substantially affect the rights of one or more of the parties;
  • the question is one that the arbitral tribunal was asked to decide;
  • on the basis of the findings of fact in the award, the decision was obviously wrong or the question is one of general public importance and the decision was at least open to serious doubt; and
  • it is just and proper for the court to determine the question.

However, parties may exclude the court’s jurisdiction to hear appeals by agreeing to dispense with the reasons for the arbitral tribunal’s award.

Under the IAA, there is no right of appeal against an arbitral award.

Both the AA and the IAA provide for the setting aside of awards if it can be shown that there are substantive defects affecting the award, such as:

  • a party to the arbitration agreement was under some incapacity or the arbitration agreement was not valid under the applicable law;
  • the party making the setting aside application was not given proper notice of the appointment of an arbitrator or the arbitral proceedings, or was otherwise unable to present his or her case;
  • the award deals with a dispute not contemplated by or falling within the terms of the submission to arbitration;
  • the composition of the arbitral tribunal or the arbitral procedure was not in accordance with the agreement of the parties;
  • the making of the award was induced or affected by fraud or corruption;
  • there was a breach of the rules of natural justice; and
  • the subject matter of the dispute was not arbitrable, or the award is contrary to public policy.

What procedures exist for enforcement of foreign and domestic awards?

Under the AA and IAA, a party may apply to the court for leave to enforce an award in the same manner as a judgment or order of court to the same effect. To give effect to the New York Convention, to which Singapore is a party, provisions governing the enforcement of foreign awards from other countries that are parties to the New York Convention have been incorporated into the IAA.

Singapore’s political landscape has been relatively stable and its pro-arbitration and pro-enforcement stance enables parties to enforce an arbitral award relatively swiftly and with more success.