SIAC Annual Report 2020: Trends and Observations

By Lijun Chui, Joelle Loy

04-2021

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has been another outstanding year for the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (“SIAC”). In its recently released Annual Report 2020 (the “Report”), milestones that it celebrated included a new record of 1,080 new case filings and the launch of its New York office, which is its fifth overseas representative office and first representative office outside of Asia.

A total of 179 arbitral awards were also issued by SIAC in 2020, which included 14 awards or orders that were issued by Emergency Arbitrators for urgent interim relief.

New Case Filings

1,080 new case filings were reported by SIAC in 2020. This marks a more than doubling of the previous record of 479 cases that were filed in 2019. Of these 1,080 new cases, 98% (1,063) were administered by SIAC. This, by itself, has set a record for the highest number of administered cases filed with SIAC. The remaining 2% (17) were ad hoc appointments.

The highest percentage of new claims that were filed comprised of trade disputes (64%), followed by “other” disputes (i.e., non-maritime/shipping, corporate, commercial or construction/engineering disputes) (11%) and commercial disputes (8%), respectively. Of the new cases that were filed with SIAC in 2020, 1,018 (94%) were international in nature.

The total sum in dispute stood at USD 8.49 billion, an increase from the USD 8.09 billion recorded in 2019. On average, the value of all new case filings stood at USD 19.26 million, while that of all new SIAC-administered cases stood at USD 19.65 million. The highest sum in dispute for a single SIAC-administered case was recorded as USD 0.93 billion.

Parties’ Geographical Origins and the Applicable Governing Law 

With 690 cases contributed to SIAC’s caseload in 2020, India continues to be SIAC’s top foreign user, up from the 485 cases that it contributed in 2019. The United States, which contributed 545 cases in 2020, has emerged as a strong contender to India. While China, Switzerland, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong have maintained their spot in the top ranks of SIAC’s foreign users since 2019, Vietnam, Japan and the Cayman Islands have overtaken the Philippines, Brunei, and the United Arab Emirates to enter the ranks in 2020. 

Similar to the state of affairs in 2019, parties continue to hail from diverse geographical backgrounds. In 2020 alone, SIAC received cases from parties from 60 jurisdictions across the Americas, Africa, Europe, the Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

In 2020, the governing laws of 20 different jurisdictions were applied, with the most common being Singapore (76%), followed by the United Kingdom (9%) and India (2%), respectively. Between 2019 and 2020, the United Kingdom (previously 16%) has surpassed India (previously 24%) as the second most applied governing law. The percentage of cases with Singapore law applied as the governing law has also notably increased (previously 41%).

Arbitrator Appointments

In 2020, SIAC individually appointed 143 arbitrators to 126 sole arbitrator tribunals and 17 three-member tribunals. Of these appointments, 127 were made under the SIAC Rules, 15 in ad hoc arbitrations and 1 in a case administered under other Rules. 

Separately, 145 arbitrators were nominated and confirmed by SIAC in 2020. Of the 288 arbitrators that were appointed or confirmed by SIAC, 27 nationalities were represented. 

In terms of gender diversity, 32.2% (46) of the 143 arbitrators appointed by SIAC in 2020 were female, while 31.3% (10) of the 32 members of SIAC’s Court of Arbitration are women.

Emergency Arbitration, Expedited Procedure and Early Dismissal 

By way of background, SIAC introduced Emergency Arbitration and Expedited Procedure provisions into its Rules in 2010 and Early Dismissal provisions in 2016, in a bid to create alternate pathways that could, inter alia, bring about time and cost savings for its users.

In respect of Emergency Arbitration, SIAC received 20 applications for the appointment of an Emergency Arbitrator in 2020, up from 10 of such applications in 2019. SIAC accepted all 20 requests, bringing the total number of accepted applications to date to 114.

As for the Expedited Procedure, SIAC received 88 requests for the same in 2020, up from 61 of such requests in 2019. Of these 88 requests, 37 were accepted by SIAC, bringing the total number of accepted requests to date to 361.

In relation to Early Dismissal, SIAC received 5 of such applications in 2020. Of these applications, 2 were allowed to proceed (though both were later rejected), 1 was disallowed from proceeding and 2 remained pending at the time of publication of the Report. 

Consolidation and Joinder

Following the introduction of provisions on the Consolidation of Arbitrations and Joinder of Third Parties in 2016, SIAC received 69 applications for Consolidation in 2020. Of these 69 applications, 36 were granted by the SIAC Court of Arbitration as of 31 December 2020.

As for Joinder, SIAC received 6 applications for the same in 2020, of which 2 of these applications were granted by the Tribunal as of 31 December 2020.

Concluding Observations

It is evident from the Report that SIAC has managed to achieve great success in a year that was both unprecedented and plagued by little optimism. 

With SIAC’s physical offices set to resume their normal operating hours from 5 April onwards, and its demonstrated resilience in spite of the pandemic, users and practitioners alike can be hopeful in the coming years that SIAC is on track to continue entrenching its position as one of the world’s most preferred arbitral institutions.

This article is produced by our Singapore office, Bird & Bird ATMD LLP, and does not constitute legal advice. It is intended to provide general information only. Please contact our lawyers if you have any specific queries.