Knowledge Highlights 7 December 2020

The International Arbitration (Amendment) Act 2020 came into operation on 1 December 2020. Broadly, the International Arbitration Act (“IAA”) has been amended as set out below.

1. Default mode of appointment of arbitrators in multi-party situations

The IAA has been amended to introduce a default mode of appointment of arbitrators in multi-party arbitrations where the parties’ agreement does not specify the procedure that would apply for such appointments. It sets out the processes and timeframes that should be adopted by claimants and respondents in appointing a three-member arbitration tribunal.

The IAA had previously only addressed the process for default appointment of a three-member arbitration tribunal in situations where there are two parties to a dispute (i.e. one claimant and one respondent). It did not address situations where there were more than two parties involved in the dispute (“multi-party arbitrations”). Multi-party arbitrations are a growing trend and can be complex in nature. They may be stalled or delayed if the parties are unable to agree on the appointment of the arbitration tribunal. It is expected that the new default mode of appointment of a three-member arbitration tribunal in such multi-party arbitrations will reduce delays by introducing a clear process and timelines.

2. Recognise that an arbitral tribunal and the High Court have power to enforce obligations of confidentiality in an arbitration

Given the importance of confidentiality to arbitration, the IAA has been amended to provide explicit recognition of the powers of the arbitral tribunal and the High Court to enforce obligations of confidentiality, by making orders or giving of directions, where such obligations exist. Previously, the IAA only provided that, unless parties otherwise agreed, the parties and the arbitral tribunal have a duty of confidentiality under the common law not to disclose confidential information obtained in the course of the proceedings or use them for any purpose other than the dispute. The amended IAA does not codify obligations of confidentiality but seeks to strengthen parties’ ability to enforce existing obligations.

For an in-depth analysis of the amendments to the IAA, please read our article titled “Singapore’s status as arbitration hub to be enhanced as Bill to amend International Arbitration Act passed”.

Reference materials

The International Arbitration (Amendment) Act 2020 is available on the Singapore Statutes Online website sso.agc.gov.sg.

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