Speech by SMS Assoc Prof Ho Peng Kee at the Inaugural Conference of the Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration
25 Mar 2011 Posted in Speeches
Mr Goh Joon Seng, Chairman of SCMA,
Members of the Board of Directors,
Ladies and gentlemen
Good morning. I am happy to be here this morning for this inaugural conference organized by SCMA.
Looking through the list of conference delegates, what struck me was how well-represented the various segments of the maritime industry are amongst you today: from ship owners, charterers, bunker suppliers to insurance underwriters, major oil companies and maritime lawyers. I especially welcome friends who have come from overseas. Indeed, this augurs well for SCMA’s efforts to extend its reach beyond the shores of Singapore.
Today’s conference is focused on “Unraveling Multiple Maritime Casualties”. I am told by the Organisers that this transactional analysis format is the first of its kind where a complicated fact scenario is given to the presenters and under the guidance of the session chairmen, they will draw upon their extensive expertise and experience to unravel the problems caused in their assigned areas. I applaud this very practical approach which reminds me of how I used to teach a course in Commercial Transactions in my previous vocation as a law lecturer 20 years ago with Professor Peter Ellinger.
History of SCMA
- Formed in 2004 to provide a platform for the maritime cluster in Singapore and the fast growing maritime industries in Asia Pacific nations to resolve their contractual disputes using arbitration, the creation of a dedicated maritime arbitration centre was part of our efforts to develop Singapore into a maritime hub of excellence. Following feedback from the maritime community for a model of arbitration that is non-institutional in nature, SCMA was reconstituted in 2009, as an independent body, to meet this demand.
- SCMA today operates as a separate entity from the Singapore International Arbitration Centre where it was initially housed, offering a different model of arbitration tailored for the maritime community. Following the traditional approach to maritime arbitration exemplified by the London Maritime Arbitrators Association (“LMAA”), the present SCMA Rules provides a high degree of party autonomy. SCMA is not involved in the management of the arbitration, but is available to facilitate the process upon the party’s request. Hence, there are no management costs charged by SCMA. Under the SCMA model of arbitration, parties are free to select their own arbitrator, and are not confined to arbitrators on the SCMA Panel. There is also no mandatory scale of arbitrator’s fees so that parties are free to agree on the rates with the arbitrator. In addition, SCMA has launched a separate expedited procedure for resolution of bunker disputes under Singapore’s SS600:2008 Code of Practice for Bunkering.
- I understand that these measures have been very well received by the maritime community. Based on SCMA’s statistics, the number of new cases lodged with SCMA since May 2009 till now is four times the number of cases lodged between 2004 and 2009. Enquiry levels have risen and membership at SCMA has also doubled at both corporate and individual levels. To date, SCMA’s membership includes not just members of the local maritime and legal community, but international players as well. This is very heartening and bears testimony to SCMA’s continuing efforts to raise its regional profile, in tandem with the remarkable growth of Singapore as a global hub for international arbitration.
Arbitration Scene in Singapore
- The growing importance of Singapore as a centre for international arbitration is undisputed. Having been involved, like Mr Goh Joon Seng, in promoting Singapore as an international arbitration hub since the mid-90s, I can share with you that this is the result of an entire eco-system that facilitates and supports independent arbitration. Let me highlight some of the more salient aspects.
- First, the legislative framework here is strongly supportive of arbitration and adopts international best practices. Our International Arbitration Act, which applies under the SCMA Rules, is based on the UNCTRIAL Model Law. Singapore is also a signatory to the New York Convention and arbitration awards from Singapore are enforceable in over 140 countries all over the world. My Ministry is also committed to monitoring legislative and other developments in other jurisdictions, and is quick to respond to ensure that our legislation keeps up with best practices . As a result, our International Arbitration Act was most recently amended less than 2 years ago .
- Second, we have a judiciary that is supportive of arbitration, avoiding too ready a judicial intervention in the arbitral process. Our legal system is free of corruption, and is based on the Common Law. International best practices are adopted and investors as well as lawyers who advise them can easily understand our system, and work within it.
- Third, we have a strong pool of lawyers who are skilled in arbitration work, as well as international arbitrators of global repute, many of whom, I note, are also members of the SCMA or are on SCMA’s panel of arbitrators.
- Another element of our eco-system is the specialized physical infrastructure which we have developed to support arbitration. Those of us who have conducted hearings in hotel rooms would undoubtedly appreciate the convenience of having state-of-the-art purpose-built facilities, immediate translation services, transcribing services and a courtroom-like atmosphere where confidentiality can be preserved. Maxwell Chambers – the world’s first integrated dispute resolution centre – fulfils all these objectives and has been warmly welcomed by the arbitration community, so much so that the Global Arbitration Review recently shortlisted its opening as one of the “Best Developments” in the arbitration industry in 2010. In this vein, I understand that other countries are looking to building or improving their arbitration facilities too.
- Moving forward, Singapore’s continued growth as a global arbitration hub will undoubtedly require the contribution and collaboration of players like SCMA, who are committed to remaining relevant and responsive to the needs of the arbitration community. Through its local and regional initiatives like today’s Conference, I am confident that SCMA will continue to contribute to the strengthening of Singapore’s arbitration scene.
- On this note, I wish the Conference the success it deserves. Thank you.
Last updated on 25 Nov 2012