Starboard: Revision to SCMA rules

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Readers of Starboard will be familiar with the importance of arbitration as a means to resolve disputes (especially maritime ones) and with the role of the Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (SCMA) in the maritime arbitration scene in Singapore. With its commercially focussed and cost effective ad hoc framework for arbitration, the SCMA has done much to give parties not only flexibility and control of the arbitration process, but also access to a well-qualified panel of arbitrators and secretariat to assist in resolving their disputes. There are even procedures like the SCMA Expedited Arbitral Determination of Collisions Claims and the SCMA Bunker Claims Procedure to help parties deal with disputes on specific and specialised issues in a fair, timely and cost-effective way. The SCMA may thus be said to combine the best features of institutional arbitration with ad hoc arbitration’s flexibility and cost-effectiveness.

Ensuring that this continues in the ever-changing shipping and maritime world is not easy and requires constant attention and work. This is why the SCMA is considering possible amendments to the 3rd and latest edition of the SCMA Rules, and has launched a public consultation exercise to invite feedback from all relevant stakeholders like arbitrators, users and potential users of SCMA Arbitration, and other members of the maritime and trade arbitration public.

Some of the proposed amendments concern the appointment procedure for tribunal members and a reduction in the default number of arbitrators to be appointed. A clarification to the procedure in the SCMA Rules to challenge the appointment of arbitrators is also being mooted, as well as steps that parties can take if, for some reason, it is not intended that the seat or place of arbitration be Singapore. Also, the SCMA is thinking of amending provisions regarding arbitrator’s fees and expenses, and introducing Practice Guidance Notes on when a tribunal may ask for security for costs and how much. The SCMA has not left out various other general matters like the procedural requirements when commencing arbitration, the relevant timelines for the delivery of case statements, the need for hearings in the absence of parties’ agreement to proceed on a documents-only basis, or the manner in which tribunals are to make decisions. Nor has the SCMA neglected small claims procedure which it intends to amend and extend to claims up to US$400,000. Lastly, in addition to changes to empower the SCMA Registrar to direct bunker disputes of sums not exceeding S$100,000 to be resolved under the SCMA Bunker Claims Procedure, the SCMA is also considering structural changes to introduce various features like emergency arbitrators or appointment procedure, summary dismissal of claims and defences, expedited procedure and long-stop limits within which a tribunal must render its award, into SCMA Arbitration. Further details of the proposed changes may be found at the link on the SCMA website.

Dentons Rodyk are considering a submission to the SCMA for the public consultation exercise which is due to end on 31 August 2020, and would be pleased to hear from readers if they would like us to consider any comments or views. Alternatively, readers may wish to submit their comments or views entitled “Consultation on SCMA Rules Amendments” directly to the SCMA at Punit.Oza@scma.org.sg. In any event, readers should stay tuned to find out which proposed changes are in fact implemented and how.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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