Singapore has passed legislation for the creation of the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC), in addition to launching the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC), expanding the services offered to businesses operating in the Asia-Pacific region to resolve cross-border disputes and further cementing its position as a leading international dispute resolution hub.

The growth of Singapore’s dispute resolution

Since the establishment of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) in 1991 Singapore has focussed on developing its international arbitration services. With a panel of over 380 independent arbitrators the SIAC is now the fourth most preferred arbitral institution worldwide. In 2013 alone, the SIAC heard 259 disputes valued at over $6.06 billion.

Bolstering its position as a leading international dispute resolution hub, the SIMC and the SICC have recently been established, completing the full suite of dispute resolution services available in the region.

What are the SIMC and SICC?

Singapore International Mediation Centre

SIMC, established in March 2014, provides two key services, mediation and an “Arb-Med-Arb” service. The mediation service is an alternative path to any binding arbitration conducted by the SIAC. It aims to settle disputes by considering both the legal and commercial outcomes arising from a dispute between parties.

The SIMC, in conjunction with the SIAC, gives parties the opportunity to resolve disputes through an Arb-Med-Arb process, governed by an SIMC model clause to be inserted into commercial agreements. This process allows parties to commence arbitration and then move to mediation once the tribunal is appointed. Any settlement agreed in mediation is then referred to the tribunal, which may create a binding and enforceable award.

The parties may jointly select a mediator to conduct the mediation from the SIMC Panel of Mediator’s published online, which contains the Curriculum Vitae of each mediator outlining their background, qualifications, mediation experience, and, intriguingly, their preferred mediation style.

Singapore International Commercial Court

The SICC was established to target high-value cross-border disputes between parties by acting as a neutral third party, particularly in relation to matters governed by foreign laws. There are three main categories of cases presided over by the SICC:

  1. Where parties have consented to the use of the SICC;
  2. Where parties to a contract have elected the SICC to resolve disputes or where disputes under a contract arise in a jurisdiction of the SICC; and
  3. Where cases are transferred from the High Court to the SICC by the Chief Justice, with or without consent of the parties.

The SICC has many features which distinguish it from the SIAC, SIMC and its international counterparts such as the London Court of International Arbitration. The key judicial features of the SICC include:

  • SICC determinations are enforced as judgments of the Supreme Court of Singapore, making them enforceable by courts of foreign jurisdictions;
  • the SICC can take judicial notice of foreign law and apply foreign law to a proceeding (including alternative rules of evidence);
  • parties may be represented in the SICC by a foreign lawyer who has been registered under Singapore’s Legal Profession Act;
  • international judges  can be appointed by the Supreme Court, and are intended to include eminent foreign jurists and judges of the Supreme Court; and
  • proceedings generally take place in open court but parties have the option to apply for confidential proceedings.

What does this mean for businesses?

Being the only court of its kind in the Asia-Pacific, the SICC can be of great advantage to businesses operating in the region, especially where other avenues of dispute resolution have been exhausted.

The new flexible dispute resolution processes offered by the SICC make it an attractive destination for businesses engaged in complex cross-border disputes, particularly where a party is looking to enforce or apply foreign rules of law and evidence.

The full suite of dispute resolution services due to be available in Singapore means it will soon become a one-stop shop for international businesses to resolve cross-border disputes.