Arbitration procedures and practice in Singapore: overview

A Q&A guide to arbitration law and practice in Singapore.

The country-specific Q&A guide provides a structured overview of the key practical issues concerning arbitration in this jurisdiction, including any mandatory provisions and default rules applicable under local law, confidentiality, local courts' willingness to assist arbitration, enforcement of awards and the available remedies, both final and interim.

To compare answers across multiple jurisdictions visit the Arbitration procedures and practice Country Q&A Tool.

This Q&A is part of the global guide to arbitration. For a full list of jurisdictional Q&As visit www.practicallaw.com/arbitration-guide.

Chong Yee Leong and Vivekananda N, Allen & Gledhill LLP
Contents

Use of arbitration and recent trends

1. How is commercial arbitration used and what are the recent trends?

Use of commercial arbitration

Singapore has emerged as one of the world's leading centres for international commercial arbitration in recent years. It is ranked as one of the top five choices as a seat of arbitration globally, for the following reasons:

  • Excellent infrastructure and world class communications.

  • Courts that are knowledgeable and supportive of international arbitration. There are many recent decisions of the Supreme Court of Singapore striving to uphold arbitration agreements, enforcing foreign awards and expressing a public policy that the decision of contracting parties to arbitrate their disputes must be upheld and given effect except in the most extreme situations.

  • The adoption of the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration 1985 in its legislation on arbitration (see Question 2).

  • Excellent arbitration facilities in the form of the Maxwell Chambers, consisting of customised hearing rooms and other facilities for arbitration.

Singapore's most prominent arbitral institution is the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), which has seen tremendous growth in the past seven to eight years. SIAC currently handles about 250 cases every year. The number of new cases it has received has been steadily increasing:

  • 99 new cases in 2008.

  • 160 new cases in 2009.

  • 198 new cases in 2010.

  • 188 new cases in 2011.

  • 235 new cases in 2012.

  • 259 new cases in 2013.

  • 222 new cases in 2014.

Some 81% of cases filed at SIAC in 2014 were international in nature. Parties from about 58 nationalities were involved in arbitrations at SIAC in that year. The top contributors of cases have traditionally come from China, India, Indonesia, and more recently, the UK and the United States.

A particularly noteworthy feature has been the relatively high usage of the provisions for the appointment of an emergency arbitrator under certain institutional rules such as SIAC and ICC. Singapore legislation was amended in 2012 (as a global first) to recognise and provide for the enforceability of orders and directions of emergency arbitrators. SIAC has received about 45 applications for the appointment of an emergency arbitrator to date since the introduction of these provisions in its rules in July 2010.

Advantages/disadvantages

The following are the principal advantages of arbitration in Singapore (particularly in the context of cross-border contracts):

  • Neutrality of the seat of arbitration, particularly if Singapore is selected as the seat by parties.

  • Enforceability of arbitral awards under the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (New York Convention) (see Question 33).

  • Finality of arbitral awards and limited judicial intervention by Singapore courts in the arbitral process or after an award has been rendered.

  • Confidentiality of the arbitral proceedings.

  • Procedural flexibility.

  • Ability to select reputed international arbitral institutions based in Singapore.

 

Legislative framework

Applicable legislation

2. What legislation applies to arbitration? To what extent has your jurisdiction adopted the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration 1985 (UNCITRAL Model Law)?

The following three laws currently apply to arbitration.

International Arbitration Act (IAA)

The IAA applies to any arbitration that satisfies the requirement of being "international", that is, an arbitration in which either of the following applies:

  • At least one of the parties to the arbitration agreement is based outside Singapore.

  • One of the following places is situated outside the state in which the parties have their places of business:

    • the place of arbitration if determined in, or pursuant to, the arbitration agreement; or

    • any place where a substantial part of the obligations of the commercial relationship is to be performed or the place with which the subject matter of the dispute is most closely connected or the parties have expressly agreed that the subject-matter of the arbitration agreement relates to more than one country.

The UNCITRAL Model Law has force of law in Singapore subject to the provisions of the IAA which introduces some minor modifications (section 3(1), IAA).

Arbitration Act (AA)

The AA governs domestic arbitrations. The AA is also primarily based on the UNCITRAL Model Law.

Arbitration (International Investment Disputes) Act

This gives effect to the International Convention on Settlement of Investment Disputes 1965 (ICSID), and the enforcement of awards under the ICSID Convention in Singapore.

Mandatory legislative provisions

3. Are there any mandatory legislative provisions? What is their effect?

The International Arbitration Act and the Arbitration Act provide the framework for arbitration in Singapore. However, there are certain matters that the parties can agree themselves. In this respect, the Acts strongly endorse the principle of party autonomy reflected in the UNCITRAL Model Law.

 
4. Does the law prohibit any types of disputes from being resolved via arbitration?

The subject matter of an international arbitration under the International Arbitration Act (IAA) must be "commercial" in nature. The requirement that the contractual relationship between parties be commercial does not apply to domestic arbitrations under the Arbitration Act. The term "commercial" is not defined, although the footnote to Article 1 of the UNCITRAL Model Law provides guidance that it should be given a wide interpretation. Any dispute that the parties have agreed to submit to arbitration under an arbitration agreement must be determined by arbitration unless it is contrary to public policy to do so (section 11(1), IAA). In addition, if a written law confers jurisdiction for a particular matter on a court but does not refer to the determination of that matter by arbitration, this does not mean that a dispute about that matter is not capable of determination by arbitration (section 11(2), IAA). There are no similar provisions under the domestic Arbitration Act.

The Singapore Court of Appeal takes the view in Tomolugen Holdings [2015] SGCA 57, that a shareholder's minority oppression claim against majority shareholders is arbitrable. The Court of Appeal provided that disputes between shareholders based on a minority oppression stood on a different footing from liquidation of an insolvent company and avoidance claims as minority oppression claims did not generally engage public policy considerations. If those shareholders have chosen to resolve their dispute through arbitration, they ought to be allowed to do so.

Limitation

5. Does the law of limitation apply to arbitration proceedings?

The Limitation Act (Cap. 163) and the Foreign Limitation Periods Act 2012 apply to arbitral proceedings (International Arbitration Act (IAA)). Foreign limitation periods are applicable to cases involving foreign substantive law, unless such application conflicts with public policy or causes undue hardship to a person who is a party to the proceedings (Foreign Limitation Periods Act 2012).

Similarly, the Arbitration Act clarifies that the Limitation Act (Cap.163) applies to arbitration proceedings under that legislation.

The limitation period in Singapore for an action founded in contract is six years.

 

Arbitration organisations

6. Which arbitration organisations are commonly used to resolve large commercial disputes?

The following are the most commonly used arbitral institutions in Singapore:

  • The Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), which handles about 250 new cases annually.

  • The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which lists Singapore as the most popular Asian seat in their arbitrations.

  • Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (SCMA), which is used by parties in the shipping industry.

See box, Main arbitration organisations.

 

Jurisdictional issues

7. What remedies are available where one party denies that the tribunal has jurisdiction to determine the dispute(s)? Does your jurisdiction recognise the concept of kompetenz-kompetenz? Does the tribunal or the local court determine issues of jurisdiction?

As with the UNCITRAL Model Law, arbitrators can rule on their own jurisdiction, including any issue regarding the existence or validity of the arbitration agreement (International Arbitration Act (IAA) and Arbitration Act (AA)). An arbitration agreement is independent of the other terms of the contract. Therefore, a ruling that a contract is null and void does not necessarily invalidate the arbitration clause.

Unlike the UNCITRAL Model Law, the IAA and AA allow parties to appeal both positive and negative jurisdiction rulings by arbitral tribunals.

 

Arbitration agreements

Validity requirements

8. What are the requirements for an arbitration agreement to be enforceable?

Substantive/formal requirements

An arbitration agreement must be in writing and can be in the form of an arbitration clause in a contract or a separate agreement (International Arbitration Act (IAA)). As Singapore has adopted Option 1 of Article 7 of the UNCITRAL Model Law 2006, an arbitration agreement is in writing if the following apply:

  • Its contents are recorded in:

    • any form, even if the arbitration has been concluded orally, by conduct or other means; or

    • electronic communication, if the information contained in such communication is accessible for later reference.

  • There is a reference in a contract to any document containing an arbitration clause, if the reference is such as to make that clause part of the contract.

The definition of an "arbitration agreement" under the AA mirrors the definition contained in the IAA.

Separate arbitration agreement

A separate arbitration agreement is not required (see above, Substantive/formal requirements).

Unilateral or optional clauses

9. Are unilateral or optional clauses, where one party has the right to choose arbitration, enforceable?

Unilateral or optional clauses are enforceable. However, this depends on the construction of the clause. A clause can be construed as providing alternative dispute resolution mechanisms so a party's choice of arbitration is binding on the other party.

 
10. In what circumstances can a third party that did not sign the contract incorporating the arbitral clause in question be compelled to arbitrate disputes relating to the contract in question?

The power of a tribunal is generally limited to join only those third parties that are parties to the arbitration agreement; this is specified, for example, by Rule 24.1(b) of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre Rules 2013. The Singapore Court of Appeal observed that if this were not the case, it might enable a tribunal to "exercise unlimited jurisdiction over any dispute which any non-party could have with the parties to the arbitration reference" (PT First Media v Astro [2014] 1 SLR 372).

 
11. In what circumstances is a third party that did not sign the contract incorporating the arbitral clause in question entitled to compel a party that did sign the contract to arbitrate disputes relating to the contract?

The question has not been specifically addressed. Regarding an application by a party who claimed that the signature to the arbitration agreement was forged, the Singapore High Court considered that the UNCITRAL Model Law regime applicable in Singapore gave primacy to the arbitral tribunal to determine its own jurisdiction. It also gave primacy to the arbitral tribunal to rule on issues concerning the existence of an arbitration agreement arising from the argument that one party had not signed the relevant arbitration agreement (see Malini Ventura [2015] SGHC 225).

Separability

12. Does the applicable law recognise the separability of arbitration agreements?

An arbitration agreement is independent of the other terms of the contract. Therefore, a ruling that a contract is null and void does not necessarily invalidate the arbitration clause (International Arbitration Act). This also applies to domestic arbitrations (Arbitration Act).

Breach of an arbitration agreement

13. What remedies are available where a party starts court proceedings in breach of an arbitration agreement or initiates arbitration in breach of a valid jurisdiction clause?

Court proceedings in breach of an arbitration agreement

A court must stay proceedings instituted by a party to an arbitration agreement against another party to the arbitration agreement if the matter of the proceedings falls within the scope of the arbitration agreement (International Arbitration Act). This does not apply where the court is satisfied that the arbitration agreement is null and void, inoperative or incapable of being performed.

The court can also stay such proceedings if either of the following applies (Arbitration Act):

  • There is no good reason for the matter to be dealt with through litigation rather than under the arbitration agreement.

  • The claimant was ready and willing to do all things necessary for the proper conduct of the arbitration.

Arbitration in breach of a valid jurisdiction clause

The parties can raise an objection to the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal before the tribunal, which can then determine that it has no jurisdiction to hear the case. A party can also raise a preliminary objection to the existence or validity of the arbitration agreement under institutional rules (for example, Rule 25.1, Singapore International Arbitration Centre Rules 2013 and Article 6(4), ICC Rules 2012).

 
14. Will the local courts grant an injunction to restrain proceedings started overseas in breach of an arbitration agreement?

Courts in Singapore can grant injunctions to restrain proceedings commenced overseas in breach of an arbitration agreement.

Joinder of third parties

15. In what circumstances can a third party be joined to an arbitration or otherwise be bound by an arbitration award?

A third party that is a party to an arbitration agreement can be joined to an arbitration under the institutional rules that the parties have agreed to. For example, an arbitral tribunal can allow a party to apply to join a third party to the arbitration if the following apply (Singapore International Arbitration Centre 2013):

  • The third party is a party to the arbitration agreement.

  • Their written consent to being joined to the arbitration is obtained.

 

Arbitrators

Number and qualifications/characteristics

16. Are there any legal requirements relating to the number and qualifications/characteristics of arbitrators? Must an arbitrator be a national of, or licensed to practice in, your jurisdiction in order to serve as an arbitrator there?

Parties are free to determine the number of arbitrators. Unlike the UNCITRAL Model Law, both the International Arbitration Act and Arbitration Act provide that there must be a sole arbitrator if parties have not agreed on the number of arbitrators.

There are no legislative requirements for nationality, qualifications or characteristics of arbitrators. Several incentives, including tax incentives, are offered to arbitrators serving in arbitrations seated in Singapore.

Independence/impartiality

17. Are there any requirements relating to arbitrators' independence and/or impartiality?

There are no specific requirements. However, an arbitrator can be challenged if there are justifiable doubts as to the arbitrator's impartiality or independence, or if he does not possess qualifications agreed to by the parties (International Arbitration Act and Arbitration Act).

Appointment/removal

18. Does the law contain default provisions relating to the appointment and/or removal of arbitrators?

Appointment of arbitrators

Under both the Arbitration Act (AA) and the International Arbitration Act (IAA), the parties are free to agree on the procedure for appointing the arbitrator. Accordingly, any applicable institutional rules agreed by the parties that prescribe a procedure and time limits for the appointment of the arbitral tribunal will override the IAA and the AA.

Where there is no agreement between the parties regarding the appointment procedure, the following default procedure applies under the AA and IAA:

  • In an arbitration with a sole arbitrator, if the parties are unable to agree on the arbitrator, he will be appointed, on the request of a party, by the Chairman of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) or such person as may be designated by the Chief Justice. Only four other persons have been designated by the Chief Justice as of March 2015 to perform the functions of the Chairman of SIAC: Gary Born, Michael Pryles, Cavinder Bull and John Savage.

  • In an arbitration with three arbitrators, each party must appoint one arbitrator, and the parties must by agreement appoint the third arbitrator. Where the parties fail to agree on the appointment of the third arbitrator within 30 days of the receipt of the first request by either party to do so, the appointment will be made, on the request of a party, by the Chairman of SIAC or other persons designated by the Chief Justice.

Further, the AA lists the considerations that the appointing authority must take into account while appointing an arbitrator. These include the following:

  • The nature of the subject-matter of the arbitration.

  • The availability of any arbitrator.

  • The identities of the parties to the arbitration.

  • Any suggestion made by any of the parties regarding the appointment of any arbitrator.

  • Any qualifications required of the arbitrator by the arbitration agreement.

  • Any such considerations which are likely to secure the appointment of an independent and impartial arbitrator.

Removal of arbitrators

Subject to any agreement among the parties on a procedure for challenging an arbitrator, the procedure under Article 13(2) of the UNCITRAL Model Law applies. A party who intends to challenge an arbitrator must send a written statement of the reasons for the challenge to the arbitral tribunal, within 15 days after becoming aware of the constitution of the arbitral tribunal or of any circumstance justifying a challenge. The arbitral tribunal will decide on the challenge unless the challenged arbitrator withdraws or the other party agrees to the challenge. The procedure under the Arbitration Act is similar.

 

Procedure

Commencement of arbitral proceedings

19. Does the law provide default rules governing the commencement of arbitral proceedings?

Subject to any agreement to the contrary (including institutional rules), arbitration proceedings commence on the date on which the respondent receives a request for the dispute to be referred to arbitration (Article 21, UNCITRAL Model Law).

Applicable rules

20. What procedural rules are arbitrators likely to follow? Can the parties determine the procedural rules that apply? Does the law provide any default rules governing procedure?

Applicable procedural rules

The parties are free to agree on the procedure to be followed by the arbitral tribunal in conducting the proceedings including selecting any institutional or other rules in respect of such procedure.

Default rules

Where parties have not agreed on any procedural rules, the arbitral tribunal can conduct the arbitration in such manner as it considers appropriate. It is common for arbitral tribunals in Singapore to suggest the adoption of certain instruments, for example, the International Bar Association Rules on the Taking of Evidence in International Arbitration.

The UNCITRAL Model Law provides certain default rules, for example, on commencement of arbitration, appointment of experts by tribunals, and hearings.

Arbitrator's powers

21. What procedural powers does the arbitrator have under the applicable law? If there is no express agreement, can the arbitrator order disclosure of documents and attendance of witnesses (factual or expert)?

An arbitral tribunal has the power to order certain interim measures including (International Arbitration Act (IAA)):

  • Security for costs.

  • Discovery of documents and interrogatories.

  • Giving evidence by affidavit.

  • The preservation, interim custody or sale of any property which is or forms part of the subject matter of the dispute.

  • Samples to be taken from, or any observation to be made of or experiment conducted on, any property that is or forms part of the subject matter of the dispute.

  • The preservation and interim custody of any evidence for the purposes of the proceedings

  • Securing the amount in dispute.

  • Ensuring that any award that may be made in the arbitral proceedings is not rendered ineffectual by the dissipation of assets by a party.

  • An interim injunction or any other interim measure.

Similar powers are granted to the tribunal under the domestic Arbitration Act (AA) except that the general power to grant an "interim injunction or any other interim measure" is not specified in the AA.

Therefore, a tribunal can order discovery of documents that are within the possession or power of any of the parties.

Under the IAA and AA, any orders or directions made by an arbitral tribunal can be enforced as if they were orders of the High Court, by leave of the High Court.

The arbitral tribunal can also request the assistance of the Singapore courts in taking evidence. The courts have powers under the IAA and the AA to issue subpoenas to witnesses to attend before the arbitral tribunal to testify or for parties to produce documents.

 

Evidence

22. What documents must the parties disclose to the other parties and/or the arbitrator? How, in practice, does the scope of disclosure in arbitrations compare with disclosure in domestic court litigation? Can the parties set the rules on disclosure by agreement?

Scope of disclosure

There are no specific prescriptions in the International Arbitration Act or Arbitration Act on the nature of documents that parties must disclose to the arbitral tribunal or the other party. Parties commonly adopt the International Bar Association Rules on Taking of Evidence in International Arbitration. A party must generally disclose documents in its possession or power if one of the following applies:

  • They are in support of the party's case.

  • They are relevant and material to the case and the other party requests those.

  • The tribunal directs them to be disclosed.

In litigation, the Singapore Rules of Court require parties to give discovery by preparing and serving on the other party a list of documents, which can include documents which:

  • The party relies or will rely on.

  • Could adversely affect his own or another party's case.

  • Could support another party's case.

A party can also apply for discovery of documents and request documents that may lead him to a train of inquiry resulting in his obtaining information that may:

  • Adversely affect his own or another party's case.

  • Support another party's case.

Parties' choice

Parties are free to adopt any rules on disclosure by agreement.

 

Confidentiality

23. Is arbitration confidential? If so, what is the scope of that confidentiality and who is subject to the obligation (parties, arbitrators, institutions and so on)?

There is no statutory recognition of the confidentiality of arbitration in Singapore. However, the Singapore High Court considers that the obligation of confidentiality in arbitration is a doctrine of arbitration law developed through the common law, and applies even where there are no express terms to provide for such confidentiality in the agreement between parties (see AAY v AAZ [2011] 1 SLR 1093).

In cases before the Singapore courts involving arbitration, any party can make an application under the International Arbitration Act or the Arbitration Act for proceedings to be heard in camera (that is, in private where the public and press are not allowed to observe the proceedings), instead of in open court. The court can also make directions as to whether any and, if so, what information relating to such proceedings can be published, including any judgment.

If parties have selected an institutional set of rules, confidentiality obligations normally apply under those rules (for example, see Rule 35 of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre Rules 2013).

There is no specific legislative rule defining the scope of the confidentiality in Singapore. Under institutional rules, the obligation is generally defined as extending to the parties and the tribunal, and to all matters relating to the proceedings including the:

  • Existence of the proceedings.

  • Pleadings, evidence and other materials in the arbitration proceedings.

  • All other documents produced by a party in the proceedings or the award arising from the proceedings.

Any matter that is otherwise in the public domain is usually excluded. For an example of the scope of confidentiality under institutional rules, see Rule 35.3, Singapore International Arbitration Centre Rules 2013.

 

Courts and arbitration

24. Will the local courts intervene to assist arbitration proceedings seated in its jurisdiction?

The High Court will intervene to assist arbitration proceedings in the following situations:

  • To make an order or grant interim relief to any party for:

    • giving of evidence by affidavit;

    • the preservation, interim custody or sale of any property which is or forms part of the subject matter of the dispute;

    • samples to be taken from, or any observation to be made of or experiment conducted on, any property which is or forms part of the subject matter of the dispute;

    • the preservation and interim custody of any evidence for the purposes of the proceedings;

    • securing the amount in dispute;

    • ensuring that any award which may be made in the arbitral proceedings is not rendered ineffectual by the dissipation of assets by a party; or

    • an interim injunction or any other interim measure. Interim relief orders can be made by Singapore courts in arbitrations seated in and outside Singapore.

  • To make orders to issue subpoenas:

    • to witnesses to attend before the arbitral tribunal to testify; or

    • for parties to produce documents.

  • To enforce an arbitration agreement by granting a stay of court proceedings in favour of arbitration where proceedings are brought for a matter which falls within the scope of an arbitration agreement.

  • To decide on a decision rejecting a challenge to an arbitrator.

  • To decide on the termination of the mandate of an arbitrator.

  • To decide appeals from both positive and negative rulings on jurisdiction.

  • To decide any challenges to arbitral awards.

 
25. What is the risk of a local court intervening to frustrate an arbitration seated in its jurisdiction? Can a party delay proceedings by frequent court applications?

Risk of court intervention

Singapore courts adopt a strong pro-arbitration approach to any judicial intervention in the arbitral process, and therefore have a policy of keeping judicial interference to a minimum (see ALC v ALF [2010] SGHC 231).

Delaying proceedings

Singapore courts are efficient in dealing with any applications both during and after the arbitration proceedings. For example, the estimated time period for the Singapore High Court to consider a challenge to an award, including the time required for any appeal to the Court of Appeal, is a maximum of 18 months.

 

Remedies

26. What interim remedies are available from the tribunal?

Interim measures

 

The arbitral tribunal has the power to order certain interim measures, including:

  • Security for costs.

  • Discovery of documents and interrogatories.

  • Giving of evidence by affidavit.

  • The preservation, interim custody or sale of any property which is or forms part of the subject matter of the dispute.

  • Samples to be taken from, or any observation to be made of or experiment conducted upon, any property that is or forms part of the subject matter of the dispute.

  • The preservation and interim custody of any evidence for the purposes of the proceedings.

  • Securing the amount in dispute.

  • Ensuring that any award which may be made in the arbitral proceedings is not rendered ineffectual by the dissipation of assets by a party.

  • An interim injunction or any other interim measure.

With the leave of the court, any order or direction made by an arbitral tribunal can be enforced as if it were a court order.

Under institutional rules, tribunals have additional wider powers to grant certain kinds of measures (for example, see Rule 24, Singapore International Arbitration Centre Rules 2013). For instance, a tribunal can allow one or more third parties to be joined in the arbitration, provided that such person is a party to the arbitration agreement, with the written consent of such third party, and then make a single final award or separate awards in respect of all parties.

Ex parte

There is no legislation that governs interim relief on an ex parte basis. However, it is unlikely for an arbitral tribunal to grant interim relief on an ex parte basis. Under institutional rules, a party must notify another party of a request for urgent interim relief (see paragraph 1, Schedule 1, Singapore International Arbitration Centre Rules 2013 and paragraph 1(2), Appendix V, ICC Rules 2012).

Security

An arbitral tribunal can make an order or give directions to any party for security for costs (section 12(1)(a), International Arbitration Act and section 28(2)(a), Arbitration Act).

27. What final remedies are available from the tribunal?

An arbitral tribunal can award any remedy or relief that could have been ordered by the High Court, had the dispute been the subject of civil proceedings in that court (section 12(5)(a), International Arbitration Act; section 34 (2), Arbitration Act). This includes remedies such as damages, injunctions, declarations, specific performance and costs. A tribunal can also award simple or compound interest on the whole or any part of:

  • Any sum:

    • awarded by the arbitral tribunal in the arbitral proceedings;

    • which is in issue in the arbitral proceedings but is paid before the date of the award.

  • Costs awarded or ordered by the arbitral tribunal in the arbitral proceedings.

 

Appeals

28. Can arbitration proceedings and awards be appealed or challenged in the local courts? What are the grounds and procedure? Can parties waive any rights of appeal or challenge to an award by agreement before the dispute arises (such as in the arbitral clause itself)?

Rights of appeal/challenge

A party to the arbitral proceedings can appeal to the court on a question of law arising out of an award (section 49, Arbitration Act (AA)). This right of appeal is not available under the International Arbitration Act (IAA).

Under the IAA and AA, a party can make an application to have the award set aside by the High Court.

Grounds and procedure

Under the IAA and AA, a party can apply to have an award set aside by a court if either of the following applies:

  • The arbitration agreement between the parties is not valid under the law governing that agreement.

  • The party making the application was:

    • not given proper notice of the appointment of an arbitrator or of the arbitral proceedings; or

    • was otherwise unable to present his case.

  • The award was made by an arbitral tribunal in excess of its authority.

  • If there was procedural irregularity in the award, such that the composition of the arbitral tribunal or the arbitral procedure was not in accordance with:

    • the agreement of the parties; or

    • the UNCITRAL Model Law, in the absence of such an agreement.

  • The award is in conflict with the public policy of Singapore.

  • The subject matter of the dispute is not capable of settlement by arbitration under Singapore law.

  • Breach of the rules of natural justice in making the award by which the rights of any party have been prejudiced.

  • The making of the award was induced by fraud or corruption.

Under the Singapore Rules of Court, an application to set aside an award must be made by originating summons (along with an affidavit) which must contain the following:

  • A statement of the grounds in support of the application.

  • Any evidence relied on by the applicant.

  • The arbitration agreement, the award and other documents relied on by the applicant.

The application must be made within three months from the date of receipt by the applicant of the award or the corrected award.

Excluding rights of appeal

The right to appeal to court on a question of law arising out of an award under section 49 of the AA can be excluded by agreement of the parties. There is no right of appeal under the IAA.

 
29. What is the limitations period applicable to actions to vacate or challenge an international arbitration award rendered?

An application to set aside the award must be made within three months from the date of receipt by the applicant of the award or the corrected award.

 

Costs

30. What legal fee structures can be used? Are fees fixed by law?

Fee structures are not fixed by law.

Arbitrators are not uncommonly paid on an hourly rate basis. Arbitrators can also choose to adopt the fee schedule of an arbitral institution.

If administered by an arbitral institution, the methods of determining arbitrators' fees under the institutional rules will apply. For example, under the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) Rules 2013 the SIAC Schedule of Fees uses an ad valorem method of determining fees, as does the ICC Rules 2012 with the ICC Scale of Administrative Expenses and Arbitrator's Fees. Under the ad valorem method, a cap on the institution’s administrative fees and the arbitrator’s fees are determined on the basis of formulae that apply to particular ranges of sums in dispute.

 
31. Does the unsuccessful party have to pay the successful party's costs? How does the tribunal usually calculate any costs award and what factors does it consider?

Cost allocation

The arbitral tribunal generally has complete discretion to make an award of costs. Under the Arbitration Act, a provision in an arbitration agreement stating that the parties or any party will pay their own costs will be void unless such agreement was entered into after the dispute (Arbitration Act). There is no equivalent provision in the International Arbitration Act.

Arbitrators generally follow the principles of "costs follow the event".

Cost calculation

There are no clear guidelines setting out the basis on which tribunals calculate or apportion costs amongst parties. Before they determine what costs are reasonable and recoverable, tribunals will normally direct parties to make submissions on costs and any objections to those. Tribunals are likely to take the following into account:

  • The overall success of parties in their claims, or on particular issues, or at particular stages or in particular applications through the course of the arbitration.

  • The conduct of the parties.

  • The complexity of the case.

  • The length of the proceedings.

  • The reasonableness and proportionality of the costs.

Factors considered

The Rules of Court set out the procedure for calculating costs enforcing costs orders.

 

Enforcement of an award

Domestic awards

32. To what extent is an arbitration award made in your jurisdiction enforceable in the local courts?

An arbitral award can be enforced in the same manner as a judgment or an order to the same effect by leave of the High Court (International Arbitration Act and Arbitration Act). If leave is given, judgment can be entered in terms of the award.

An application for leave to enforce an award must be made to the High Court, by summons or originating summons. The application can be made ex parte, but must be supported by an affidavit which:

  • Exhibits:

    • the arbitration agreement;

    • a duly authenticated award or a certified copy of the award.

  • States:

    • information such as the name and address of the applicant and the person against whom the award is sought to be enforced;

    • the extent to which the award has not been complied with.

Foreign awards

33. Is your jurisdiction party to international treaties relating to recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitration awards, such as the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (New York Convention?

Singapore is a party to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (New York Convention). In ratifying it, Singapore declared that it will apply it only to the recognition and enforcement of awards made in the territory of another contracting state.

 
34. To what extent is a foreign arbitration award enforceable?

Foreign arbitral awards are enforceable in Singapore in the same manner as an award made in Singapore provided that the award is rendered in a country that is party to the New York Convention (International Arbitration Act (IAA) and Arbitration Act (AA)).

A party seeking to enforce a foreign award must produce to the court with the following:

  • The arbitration agreement.

  • The duly authenticated original award or a certified copy of it.

  • Information such as the name and address of the applicant and the person against whom the award is sought to be enforced.

  • The extent to which the award has not been complied with.

Singapore courts can refuse to enforce an award if any of the following applies:

  • A party to the arbitration agreement under which the award was made did not have capacity under the law applicable to him at the time the arbitration agreement was entered into.

  • The arbitration agreement is not valid under:

    • the law to which the parties subjected it to; or

    • in the absence of a choice of law, under the law of the country where the award was made.

  • The person against whom enforcement of the award is sought proves that he was:

    • not given proper notice of the appointment of the arbitrator or arbitration proceedings; or

    • was otherwise unable to present his case.

  • The award deals with a difference beyond the scope of the submission to arbitration.

  • The composition of the arbitral authority or the arbitral procedure was not in accordance with:

    • the agreement of the parties; or

    • the law of the country where the arbitration took place, if there was no such agreement.

  • The award has:

    • not yet become binding on the parties to the arbitral award; or

    • been set aside or suspended by a competent authority of the country in which, or under the law of which, the award was made.

 
35. What is the limitations period applicable to actions to enforce international arbitration awards rendered outside your jurisdiction?

Applications for leave to enforce a foreign award made in a New York Convention country must be made within six years of the award (section 6, Limitation Act).

Length of enforcement proceedings

36. How long do enforcement proceedings in the local court take, from the date of filing the application to the date when the first instance court makes its final order? Is there an expedited procedure?

Singapore courts are renowned for their efficiency in dealing with applications to enforce awards. The estimated time period for the Singapore High Court to consider an application to enforce an award is a maximum of nine months.

 

Reform

37. Are any changes to the law currently under consideration or being proposed?

The International Arbitration Act (IAA) and the Arbitration Act (AA) were last amended in 2012. There are no current proposals to amend the law. The Singapore government will normally conduct public consultations prior to any amendment to the IAA or AA.

 

Main arbitration organisations

Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC)

Main activities. SIAC administers arbitrations under its own rules and also provides services of appointment of arbitrators (under the International Arbitration Act and the Arbitration Act).

W www.siac.org.sg/

International Court of Arbitration of International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)

Main activities. ICC administers arbitrations under its own rules and also provides services of appointment of experts and mediation.

W www.iccwbo.org

Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (SCMA)

Main activities. SCMA offers a "loose-touch" administered arbitration service for the shipping and maritime industry.

W www.scma.org.sg/



Online resources

Singapore Statutes Online

W http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/

Description. This website contains all Singapore legislation, subsidiary legislation and legislative history (in English). It is maintained by the Legislation Division of the Attorney-General's Chambers of Singapore, and is generally up-to-date.



Contributor profiles

Chong Yee Leong, Partner

Allen & Gledhill LLP

T +65 6890 7450
F +65 6302 3415
E chong.yeeleong@allenandgledhill.com
W www.allenandgledhill.com

Professional qualifications. England and Wales, Solicitor, 2000; Malaysia, Lawyer, 1997; Singapore, Lawyer, 1990.

Areas of practice. Energy; infrastructure and projects; international arbitration; commercial litigation

Non-professional qualifications. LLB (Hons), National University of Singapore

Recent transactions

  • Sole arbitrator in 24 SIAC administered UNCITRAL international arbitrations on a sale and purchase of properties in Thailand

  • Sole arbitrator in a SIAC international arbitration on a joint venture for development of teak industry in Ghana.

  • Sole arbitrator in ad hoc international arbitrations on international sales of goods, a breach of an investment agreement and an investment in a coal mine.

  • Counsel in four SIAC arbitrations on the construction of a jack up drilling rig.

  • Counsel in an ICC arbitration on the construction of civil works of a hydroelectric plant in Laos.

  • Counsel in an SIAC arbitration in relation to a dispute arising from an investment agreement in Thailand and an ICC arbitration on a patent licensing contract in India.

Professional associations/memberships. Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb), Chartered arbitrator and member of the Presidential panel of arbitrators; Singapore Institute of Arbitrators, Fellow; Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), Panel member; Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration (KLRCA), Singapore LNG Pte Ltd, Director, 2011- 2015.

Publications

  • Singapore International Counsel Arbitration Law & Practice (2014) LexisNexis.

  • Arbitration in Singapore: A Practical Guide (2014) Sweet & Maxwell.

  • Singapore: The right place for dispute settlement, 29 July 2014, The Business Times.

Vivekananda N, International Counsel

Allen & Gledhill LLP

T +65 6890 7154
F +65 6302 3306
E vivek.n@allenandgledhill.com
W www.allenandgledhill.com

Professional qualifications. Delhi, Lawyer, 2006

Areas of practice. International arbitration

Non-professional qualifications. BA, LLB, National Law School of India University, Bangalore.

Recent transactions

  • Represented an oil and gas company in a dispute with an Indian partner on issues in relation to an oilfield in India.

  • Acted for a leading global hotel operator in a Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) arbitration against an Indian hotel owner in relation to a five star hotel.

  • Represented the Singapore arm of an Indian trading house in several SIAC arbitrations against commodities trading partners.

  • Acted for a Singapore company in the education sector on a SIAC arbitration (including acting in SIAC emergency arbitrator proceedings) against an Indian joint venture partner.

  • Represented an Indian corporate house on a SIAC arbitration (including emergency arbitrator proceedings) against a Swiss joint venture partner.

Languages. English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada

Professional associations/memberships. Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), Member of the Reserve panel of arbitrators and former Deputy Registrar; Reserve Panel of Arbitrators of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre, Member; Bar Council of Delhi, Member.

Publications

  • Which law governs the agreement to arbitrate?, Global Arbitration Review Journal (2015).

  • Non-discrimination between Foreign and Domestic Investment in ASEAN (2015) 32 Journal of International Arbitration.

  • Preface, Asia Pacific Arbitration Review (2014).

  • The SIAC Emergency Arbitrator Experience, Corporate Dispute Resolution (2013).


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