Commercial Arbitration

Last verified on Thursday 13th April 2023

Commercial Arbitration: Singapore

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Infrastructure

1. Is your state a party to the New York Convention? Are there any noteworthy declarations or reservations?

Singapore

Yes, Singapore has been a party to the New York Convention since 21 August 1986, subject to a reciprocity reservation that only requires it to recognise arbitral awards rendered in other contracting states.

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2. Is your state a party to any other bilateral or multilateral treaties regarding the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards?

Singapore

Yes, Singapore is a party to the International Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of other States (1965) (ICSID), which it ratified on 14 October 1968.

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3. Is there an arbitration act or equivalent and, if so, is it based on the UNCITRAL Model Law? Does it apply to all arbitral proceedings with their seat in your jurisdiction?

Singapore

Yes, in Singapore, two main pieces of legislation govern all arbitration proceedings seated in Singapore. These are the Arbitration Act 2001 (AA) and the International Arbitration Act 1994 (IAA), both of which are aligned with the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration 1985 (Model Law). The 2006 amendments to the Model Law have not been adopted entirely in Singapore, although the IAA has been adapted to reflect some of the 2006 amendments made, including an expanded definition of ‘arbitration agreement’.

The IAA applies to all international arbitrations seated in Singapore. Whether a particular arbitration is regarded as international depends on whether it meets one of the following criteria:

  • at least one of the parties to the arbitration agreement has its place of business in a country other than Singapore;
  • the place of arbitration, as determined pursuant to the arbitration agreement, is in a country that is neither party’s place of business;
  • the country in which a substantial part of the obligations of the commercial relationship is to be performed is a country that is neither party’s place of business;
  • the country in which the subject matter of the dispute is most closely connected is a country that is neither party's place of business; or
  • the parties have expressly agreed that the subject matter of the arbitration agreement relates to more than one country.

Section 3 of the IAA states that, with the exception of Chapter VIII, the Model Law has the force of law in Singapore. Further, in 2012, the IAA was amended such that it effectively adopted Option 1 of article 7 of the 2006 Amendments to the Model Law. Consequently, under the IAA, an arbitration agreement is considered to be ‘in writing’ so long as the content is recorded in any form, even if the arbitration agreement or contract has been concluded orally or by conduct or any other means. The IAA also incorporates the provisions of the New York Convention in the Second Schedule, which provides for the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards.

The AA applies to any arbitration where the place of arbitration is Singapore and where the IAA does not apply.

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4. What arbitration bodies relevant to international arbitration are based within your jurisdiction? Do such bodies also act as appointing authorities?

Singapore

The Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) regularly administer arbitrations with an international element.

The President of the Court of Arbitration of the SIAC (SIAC President) is the statutory appointing authority for the default appointment of arbitrators under the IAA and the AA, and maintains a panel of accredited arbitrators based in Singapore and elsewhere from which appointments can be made. The SIAC frequently acts as the appointing authority for arbitrations conducted under the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules and, subject to the terms of the relevant arbitration agreement, in ad hoc cases.

A more specialised arbitration institution based in Singapore is the Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration, which administers shipping-related arbitrations.

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5. Can foreign arbitral providers operate in your jurisdiction?

Singapore

Yes, various arbitral bodies have offices in Singapore – these include, for example:

  • the International Court of Arbitration of the ICC;
  • the Permanent Court of Arbitration;
  • the International Centre for Dispute Resolution, which is the international division of the American Arbitration Association; and
  • the Arbitration and Mediation Centre of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which administers disputes relating to intellectual property rights.

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6. Is there a specialist arbitration court? Is the judiciary in your jurisdiction generally familiar with, and supportive of, the law and practice of international arbitration?

Singapore

No, there is no specialist arbitration court.

Nevertheless, the Singapore judiciary is generally very familiar with and supportive of the law and practice of international arbitration. There are specialist judges in the General Division of the High Court of Singapore who regularly hear arbitration-related proceedings. The Singapore courts are pro-arbitration and adopt the principle of minimal curial intervention in international arbitration proceedings. This means that the courts will not consider the substantive merits of the arbitral proceedings, and awards will only be set aside on limited grounds, such as where there is a breach of natural justice.

In addition, the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC), which is a division of the High Court of Singapore and has the jurisdiction to hear IAA matters, has recently introduced a jurisdiction model clause under which parties may designate the SICC as the supervisory court for Singapore-seated international arbitrations. This would allow parties to benefit from the experience of the international judges in the SICC and a higher rate of costs recovery.

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Agreement to arbitrate

7. What, if any, requirements must be met if an arbitration agreement is to be valid and enforceable under the law of your jurisdiction? Can an arbitration agreement cover future disputes?

Singapore

In terms of formalities, an arbitration agreement must have its content in ‘writing’ in order to be valid and enforceable under Singapore law. In other words, its content must be recorded in any form, whether or not the arbitration agreement or contract has been concluded orally, by conduct or by other means (section 2A IAA). This writing requirement may also be satisfied by an ‘electronic communication if the information contained therein is accessible so as to be usable for subsequent reference’ (section 2A(5) IAA).

The substantive requirement is that parties have a clear intention to arbitrate their dispute. If there is a clear intention to arbitrate, even if the arbitration agreement contains some ambiguity or uncertainty, the court will likely give effect to that agreement. 

An arbitration agreement can cover future disputes.

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8. Are any types of dispute non-arbitrable? If so, which?

Singapore

Disputes are non-arbitrable where the subject matter of the dispute is of such a nature that it is contrary to public policy for the dispute to be resolved by arbitration (section 11 IAA).

A dispute is presumed to be arbitrable so long as the dispute falls within the scope of an arbitration clause. This presumption may be rebutted if it is shown that (i) either Parliament intended to preclude a particular type of dispute from being arbitrated, (ii) or that it would be contrary to the public policy considerations involved in that type of dispute to be permitted to be resolved by arbitration (Tomolugen Holdings Ltd and another v Silica Investors Ltd and other appeals [2015] SGCA 57; Anupam Mittal v Westbridge Ventures II Investment Holdings [2023] SGCA 1).

Only a few subject matters have been identified as falling within the list of non-arbitrable matters. These include citizenship, legitimacy of marriage, grants of statutory licences, winding up of companies, bankruptcy, and administration of estates (Larsen Oil and Gas Pte Ltd v Petroprod Ltd [2011] SGCA 21).

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9. Can a third party be bound by an arbitration clause and, if so, in what circumstances? Can third parties participate in the arbitration process through joinder or a third-party notice?

Singapore

Arbitration agreements generally do not bind third parties. This is in accordance with the fundamental principle that submission of a dispute to arbitration is founded upon parties’ consent. That said, a third party may become a party to an arbitration agreement where the arbitration agreement (and the contract in which that arbitration agreement is incorporated by reference in another contract).

While the IAA does not directly address the issue of joinder, it is generally understood that the consent of all parties, including the party to be joined, is a necessary condition for there to be a joinder of a third party.

If the applicable arbitral rules provide for joinder, any party (including the non-party or third party) may file an application for joinder either to the arbitral institution’s secretariat or the arbitral tribunal (if constituted) as long as the third party is prima facie bound by the arbitration agreement, or where all parties have consented to the joinder (see, eg, Rule 7.1 of SIAC Rules 2016; article 7 of ICC Rules 2021; article 27 of HKIAC Rules 2018).

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10. Would an arbitral tribunal with its seat in your jurisdiction be able to consolidate separate arbitral proceedings under one or more contracts and, if so, in what circumstances?

Singapore

Yes, provided that parties have consented to such consolidation either in the arbitration agreement or after disputes are submitted to arbitration.

Section 26 of the AA provides that the tribunal can consolidate separate arbitral proceedings as long as parties confer such powers on the tribunal. The IAA is silent on the consolidation of arbitration proceedings. An arbitral tribunal with its seat in Singapore would nevertheless be able to consolidate two or more separate arbitration proceedings if all parties consent to such consolidation.

The applicable arbitral rules may empower the arbitral institution or the tribunal to consolidate separate arbitral proceedings.

For instance, Rule 8 of the SIAC Rules 2016 provides the following conditions for the SIAC Court (or the tribunal, as the case may be) to consolidate two or more arbitrations upon a party’s application if any of the following criteria is satisfied:

  • all parties have agreed to the consolidation;
  • all the claims in the arbitrations are made under the same arbitration agreement (and where the application was filed after the constitution of any tribunal, the same tribunal must have been constituted in each of the arbitrations, or no tribunal has been constituted in the other arbitration); or
  • the arbitration agreements are compatible, and (i) the disputes arise out of the same legal relationship(s); (ii) the disputes arise out of contracts consisting of a principal contract and its ancillary contract(s); or (iii) the disputes arise out of the same transaction or series of transactions.

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11. Is the "group of companies doctrine" recognised in your jurisdiction?

Singapore

Singapore law does not recognise the ‘group of companies’ doctrine (see, eg, Manuchar Steel Hong Kong Ltd v Star Pacific Line Pte Ltd [2014] 4 SLR 832). Companies within the same corporate group would be treated as separate legal personalities rather than a single economic entity.  

However, there are other bases for piercing the corporate veil that are recognised under Singapore law. The court may pierce the corporate veil on the basis that the company may be an alter ego of the company’s shareholders. However, it is rare for the court to lift or pierce the corporate

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12. Are arbitration clauses considered separable from the main contract?

Singapore

Yes, arbitration clauses are considered separable from the main contract pursuant to article 16 of the Model Law (which is brought into force in Schedule 1 of the IAA).

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13. Is the principle of competence-competence recognised in your jurisdiction? Can a party to an arbitration ask the courts to determine an issue relating to the tribunal's jurisdiction and competence?

Singapore

Yes, Singapore law recognises the principle of competence-competence. The arbitral tribunal has full power to decide on its own jurisdiction and on the existence and validity of the arbitration agreement. A dissatisfied party can appeal against a tribunal’s ruling on jurisdiction to the High Court within 30 days of having received notice of that ruling (section 10 IAA).

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14. Are there particular issues to note when drafting an arbitration clause where your jurisdiction will be the seat of arbitration or the place where enforcement of an award will be sought?

Singapore

The Singapore courts generally adopt a pro-arbitration approach and seek to uphold the validity of an arbitration clause. When drafting an arbitration clause where Singapore is the seat of arbitration or the place of enforcement of an award, parties should: (i) make clear their intention to arbitrate; (ii) identify the seat of arbitration; (iii) the number of arbitrators; (iv) the applicable arbitral rules; (v) the administering institution (if any); (vi) the language of the arbitration; and (vii) the governing law of the arbitration agreement.

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15. Is institutional international arbitration more or less common than ad hoc international arbitration? Are the UNCITRAL Rules commonly used in ad hoc international arbitrations in your jurisdiction?

Singapore

Although there are both institutional and ad hoc arbitrations in Singapore, institutional arbitration is more common than ad hoc international arbitration. For example, the SIAC 2022 Annual Report states that, out of the 357 new case filings that the SIAC received, 336 (94 per cent) were SIAC-administered cases and 21 (6 per cent) were ad hoc appointments.

The UNCITRAL Rules are commonly used in ad hoc international arbitrations.

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16. What, if any, are the particular points to note when drafting a multi-party arbitration agreement with your jurisdiction in mind? In relation to, for example, the appointment of arbitrators.

Singapore

When drafting a multi-party arbitration agreement, parties should ensure that all inter-connected agreements contain identical arbitration clauses. This means that the arbitration clauses should select the same:

  • arbitral institution (where the arbitration is to be administered);
  • arbitral rules;
  • seat of arbitration;
  • number of arbitrators;
  • language of the arbitration; and
  • governing law of the arbitration agreement.
  • The arbitration clause should contain a mechanism for the appointment of the arbitral tribunal in multi-contract, multi-party arbitration proceedings.

If the multi-party arbitration agreement provides for ad hoc arbitration seated in Singapore but fails to provide for a mechanism to appoint the arbitrators, section 9B of the IAA applies to the appointment of arbitrators in an arbitration with three or more parties and three arbitrators.  

If the multi-party arbitration agreement provides for institutional arbitration but fails to provide for a mechanism to appoint the arbitrators, the applicable arbitral rules may set out the default position for the appointment of arbitrators in a multi-party arbitration. For example, Rule 12.1 of the SIAC Rules 2016 provides that where there are more than two parties to the arbitration, and a sole arbitrator is to be appointed, the parties may agree to jointly nominate the sole arbitrator. Where there are more than two parties in the arbitration and three arbitrators are to be appointed, the claimants shall jointly nominate one arbitrator and the respondents shall jointly nominate one arbitrator, and the SIAC President shall appoint the third arbitrator as the presiding arbitrator (Rule 12.2 read with Rule 11.3 of the SIAC Rules 2016).

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Commencing the arbitration

17. How are arbitral proceedings commenced in your jurisdiction? Are there any key provisions under the arbitration laws of your jurisdiction relating to limitation periods of which the parties should be aware?

Singapore

Under Singapore law, a claimant needs to prepare a Notice of Arbitration/Request for Arbitration and effect service on both the respondents and the relevant arbitral institution. The claimant has a duty to show that such service was properly effected, and that the respondent has received the request (section 9 AA, articles 3(1), 21 of Model Law). Claimants should also take note of section 60 of the AA, which applies to Singapore-seated arbitrations not governed by the IAA, which provides for certain requirements on how documents should be served.

With regard to time limits, the Limitation Act 1959 and the Foreign Limitation Periods Act 2012 (FLPA) apply to arbitral proceedings (see sections 8A IAA and 11(1) AA). The FLPA applies to a dispute that is arbitrated in Singapore, but is governed by the substantive law of a foreign jurisdiction. The limitation laws of that foreign law shall apply to such disputes, unless applying such foreign limitation law conflicts with public policy (section 4 FLPA).

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Choice of law

18. How is the substantive law of the dispute determined? Where the substantive law is unclear, how will a tribunal determine what it should be?

Singapore

Arbitral tribunals would apply the parties’ choice of law. In the absence of such choice of law, the tribunal must apply the law determined by ‘the conflict of law rules which it considers applicable’ (article 28(2) of Model Law).

Generally, the arbitral rules provide for the tribunal’s discretion to apply an appropriate law where the substantive law is unclear (see, eg, Rule 31.1 of the SIAC Rules 2016, article 21 of ICC Rules 2021, article 36 of HKIAC Rules 2018).

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Appointing the tribunal

19. Does the law of your jurisdiction place any limitations in respect of a party's choice of arbitrator?

Singapore

No, there are no limitations in Singapore law as to a party’s choice of arbitrator.

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20. Can non-nationals act as arbitrators where the seat is in your jurisdiction or hearings are held there? Is this subject to any immigration or other requirements?

Singapore

Yes, non-nationals can act as arbitrators where the seat is in Singapore or where hearings are held in Singapore. Neither the AA nor the IAA provides any restrictions on the nationality of the arbitrators. Non-resident arbitrators are generally able to enjoy work pass exemptions (ie, they do not need to apply for a work pass to carry out arbitration and mediation work in Singapore for up to 90 days in a calendar year (for further details, please see the Ministry of Law Singapore webpage ‘Updates to Withholding Tax Exemption for Non-Resident Arbitrators and Mediators’)).

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21. How are arbitrators appointed where no nomination is made by a party or parties or the selection mechanism fails for any reason? Do the courts have any role to play?

Singapore

Where a sole arbitrator or the presiding arbitrator in a three-member tribunal is to be appointed in an international arbitration and no nomination is made by a party or parties, the SIAC President appoints the sole or presiding arbitrator (sections 8 and 9A IAA).

In domestic arbitrations, the SIAC President may appoint the sole arbitrator, presiding arbitrator or co-arbitrator where no nomination has been made by a party or parties (section 13 AA).

The applicable arbitral rules provide for the mechanism for the default appointment of arbitrators. For example:

  • In a SIAC-administered arbitration with a three-member tribunal, if parties have not agreed on the procedure for appointing a third arbitrator, or if such agreed procedure does not result in a nomination within the period agreed by the parties or set by the Registrar, the SIAC President shall appoint the third arbitrator (Rule 11.3 of the SIAC Rules 2016).
  • For a single-member panel, the SIAC President will appoint an arbitrator if parties are unable to agree on one within 14 days of the receipt of a party’s nomination of an arbitrator (Rule 11.2 of SIAC Rules 2016).

Under article 11(4) of the Model Law, the SIAC President (as the statutory appointing authority) also has the power to appoint arbitrators for arbitrations conducted under the rules of other arbitral institutions if the institutions are unable to carry out that function, unless the parties’ agreed procedure provides other means for securing the appointment.

No appeal can be made against the decisions of the SIAC President on the appointment of arbitrators (section 13(7) AA, article 11(5) of Model Law).

The Singapore courts do not have any role to play in the default appointment of arbitrators.

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22. Are arbitrators afforded immunity from suit under the law of your jurisdiction and, if so, in what terms?

Singapore

Yes, section 25 of the IAA specifies that an arbitrator shall not be liable for negligence in respect of ‘anything done or omitted to be done in the capacity of an arbitrator’, and shall not be liable for ‘any mistake in law, fact or procedure made in the course of arbitral proceedings or in the making of an arbitral award’.

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23. Can arbitrators secure payment of their fees in your jurisdiction? Are there fundholding services provided by relevant institutions?

Singapore

Arbitrators are generally unable to secure payment of its fees in Singapore. However, as a matter of practice, arbitration bodies generally require parties to pay a deposit towards the costs of the arbitration that would include the arbitrator’s fees. In a SIAC-administered arbitration, if a party fails to pay the deposits, the tribunal may suspend its work and the Registrar may suspend SIAC’s administration of the arbitration (see, eg, Rule 34.6 of the SIAC Rules 2016).

The relevant institutions, such as SIAC, provide fundholding services.

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Challenges to arbitrators

24. On what grounds may a party challenge an arbitrator? How are challenges dealt with in the courts or (as applicable) the main arbitration institutions in your jurisdiction? Will the IBA Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest in International Arbitration generally be taken into account?

Singapore

There are two main grounds of challenge under section 14 of the AA and IAA (article 12 of Model Law):

  • There are circumstances giving rise to justifiable doubts as to the arbitrator’s impartiality or independence; and/or
  • The arbitrator does not possess the qualifications agreed to by parties.

Parties are free to agree on a procedure for challenging an arbitrator. Where there is no agreement, the default procedures in the AA/IAA are as follows:

  • a party who intends to challenge an arbitrator is to send a written statement of the reasons for the challenge to the arbitral tribunal within 15 days of becoming aware of the constitution of the arbitral tribunal or after becoming aware of any circumstance giving rise to the grounds of challenge (article 13(2) of the Model Law);
  • the arbitral tribunal shall decide on the challenge unless the challenged arbitrator withdraws from office or unless the other party agrees to the challenge (article 13(2) of the Model Law);
  • if the challenge is unsuccessful, the challenging party may request the court to decide on the challenge, within 30 days after having received notice of the decision rejecting the challenge. The court’s decision cannot be further appealed. While such a request is pending, the arbitral tribunal may continue the arbitral proceedings (article 13(3) of the Model Law); and
  • if the challenge is successful, or if the arbitrator withdraws from office or the parties have agreed to terminate his or her mandate, a substitute arbitrator shall be appointed according to the rules applicable to the appointment of the arbitrator being replaced (article 15 of the Model Law).

Institutional rules may provide a default challenge procedure.

For example, Rules 14 to 16 of the SIAC Rules 2016 set out the challenge procedure.

  • The SIAC Registrar may suspend the arbitration pending the resolution of the challenge (Rule 15.4 of SIAC Rules 2016).
  • Where the arbitrator who is being challenged does not withdraw voluntarily from office, the Court of Arbitration of SIAC decides the challenge (Rule 16.4 of SIAC Rules 2016).
  • The decision of the Court of Arbitration of SIAC is final and non-appealable (Rule 16.4 of SIAC Rules 2016).
  • If the sole or presiding arbitrator is replaced, any hearings held previously shall be repeated, unless the parties agree otherwise. If any other arbitrator is replaced, the tribunal has the discretion to repeat the hearings previously held (Rule 18 of SIAC Rules 2016).

Arbitrators in Singapore refer to the IBA Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest in International Arbitration for practical guidance. The SIAC also has the Code of Ethics for an arbitrator.

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Interim relief

25. What main types of interim relief are available in respect of international arbitration and from whom (the tribunal or the courts)? Are anti-suit injunctions available where proceedings are brought elsewhere in breach of an arbitration agreement?

Singapore

Under section 12 of the IAA, the arbitral tribunal is empowered to grant interim relief for (among others):

    • security for costs;
    • the preservation of evidence, interim custody or sale of any property which is or forms part of the subject matter of the dispute;
    • the preservation and interim custody of any evidence for the purpose 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; and
    • enforcing any obligation of confidentiality.

Under section 12A of the IAA, the General Division of the High Court of Singapore has the same power to grant interim relief as an arbitral tribunal seated in Singapore.

If a party commences court proceedings in Singapore in breach of an arbitration agreement, the other party can apply to the court for a stay of the court proceedings. The court will grant a stay of proceedings unless the arbitration agreement is null and void, inoperative or incapable of being performed (section 6 IAA).

If a party commences proceedings outside of Singapore in breach of an arbitration agreement, the Singapore court is likely to grant an anti-suit injunction which would preclude the infringing party from continuing the foreign proceedings, unless there are strong reasons not to grant the injunction, or that the anti-suit injunction was not promptly sought or that the overseas proceedings have already reached an advanced stage (Sun Travels & Tours Pvt Ltd v Hilton International Manage (Maldives) Pvt Ltd [2019] SGCA 10).

The relevant arbitral rules may empower the tribunal to grant interim relief (see, eg, Rule 30.1 of SIAC Rules 2016, article 28(1) of ICC Rules 2021, article 23.2 of HKIAC Rules 2018).

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26. Does the law of your jurisdiction allow a court or tribunal to order a party to provide security for costs?

Singapore

Yes, section 12(1)(a) of IAA allows the tribunal to order any party to provide security for legal or other costs. But under section 12(4) of IAA, the tribunal cannot order a claimant to provide security for costs solely on the ground that the claimant is an individual ordinarily resident outside Singapore, or the claimant is a corporation or an association incorporated or formed under the law of a country outside Singapore, or whose central management and control is exercised outside Singapore.

An order for security for costs made by an arbitral tribunal can be enforced as if it is an order of court, if permission were granted by the General Division of the High Court of Singapore (section 12(6) IAA).

The Singapore court does not have the power to order a party to provide security for costs in an international arbitration seated in Singapore or elsewhere.

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Procedure

27. Are there any mandatory rules in your jurisdiction that govern the conduct of the arbitration (eg, general duties of the tribunal and/or the parties)?

Singapore

Article 18 of the Model Law (as brought into force under Schedule 1 of the IAA) provides that the tribunal shall treat the parties with equality and each party shall be given a full opportunity of presenting his or her case.

Article 19 of the Model Law provides that the parties are free to agree on the procedure to be followed by the arbitral tribunal in conducting the proceedings.

Section 15A of the IAA makes clear that parties may agree or adopt arbitral rules that govern the conduct of the arbitration. 

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28. What is the applicable law (and prevailing practice) where a respondent fails to participate in an arbitration?

Singapore

Where a respondent fails to participate in an arbitration by failing to communicate his or her statement of defence, the arbitral tribunal shall continue the proceedings without treating such failure in itself as an admission of the claimant’s allegation (article 25(b) Model Law). Where a respondent fails to appear at a hearing or to produce documentary evidence, the arbitral tribunal may continue the proceedings and make the award on the evidence before it (article 25(c) Model Law).

Rule 20.9 of the SIAC Rules 2016 takes a broadly similar position to article 25 of the Model Law (see also article 26(2) ICC Rules 2021, article 26.2 HKIAC Rules 2018).

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29. What types of evidence are usually admitted, and how is evidence usually taken? Will the IBA Rules on the Taking of Evidence in International Arbitration generally be taken into account?

Singapore

Pursuant to article 19(2) of the Model Law (as brought into force in Schedule 1 IAA), the arbitral tribunal has the power to determine the admissibility, relevance, materiality and weight of any evidence. The Evidence Act 1893 does not apply in arbitration proceedings. The tribunal may therefore receive any evidence that it considers relevant and material to the arbitration.

Section 12(1) of the IAA gives the tribunal wide powers in respect of disclosure, discovery, and preservation of evidence. The tribunal has the power to order the giving of evidence through written witness statements. The tribunal also has the power to adopt inquisitorial processes if it thinks fit, unless the parties to the arbitration agreement have agreed otherwise (section 12(3) IAA).

It is common practice for the tribunal to be guided, but not bound, by the International Bar Association Rules on the Taking of Evidence in International Arbitration 2020 (the IBA Rules).

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30. Will the courts in your jurisdiction play any role in the obtaining of evidence?

Singapore

A party to an arbitration agreement may request that the Singapore courts issue an order to attend or an order to produce documents. The Singapore courts may order a witness who is in Singapore to attend before an arbitral tribunal and give evidence, or to compel the witness to attend before an arbitral tribunal and produce specified documents (section 13(2) IAA).

Where the case is one of urgency and the arbitral tribunal has no power or is unable for the time being to act effectively, the court may also make orders as it deems necessary for the purpose of preserving evidence (section 12A(4) IAA).

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31. What is the relevant law and prevailing practice relating to document production in international arbitration in your jurisdiction?

Singapore

Singapore law does not prescribe specific rules for document production in international arbitration. The tribunal has broad discretion to order disclosure.

It is common practice for arbitral tribunals to be guided, but not bound, by the IBA Rules. Under the IBA Rules, parties must produce documents that are in their possession, custody or control, are relevant to the case and material to its outcome.

In an arbitration administered under the SIAC Rules 2016, tribunals may also order parties to disclose documents in their possession or control that the tribunal considers relevant to its case and material to its outcome (see also, article 22.2 of the HKIAC Rules).

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32. Is it mandatory to have a final hearing on the merits?

Singapore

Unless parties have agreed to a document-only hearing, the tribunal must hold hearings, at the appropriate stage, if any party requests for a hearing (article 24 of Model Law).

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33. If your jurisdiction is selected as the seat of arbitration, may hearings and procedural meetings be conducted elsewhere?

Singapore

Yes, the tribunal may hold hearings and meetings at ‘any location it considers convenient or appropriate’ (article 20(2) of Model Law, Rule 21 of SIAC Rules 2016, article 18(2) of ICC Rules 2021, article 14.2 of the HKIAC Rules 2018).

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Award

34. Can the tribunal decide by majority?

Singapore

Yes, where there is more than one arbitrator, the tribunal is to decide by a majority, unless parties otherwise agree (article 29 of Model Law, Rule 32.7 of SIAC Rules 2016).

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35. Are there any particular types of remedies or relief that an arbitral tribunal may not grant?

Singapore

No, unless otherwise agreed by the parties, the tribunal may award any remedy or relief that could have been ordered by the General Division of the High Court as if the dispute had been the subject of civil proceedings in that court (section 12(5) IAA).

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36. Are dissenting opinions permitted under the law of your jurisdiction? If so, are they common in practice?

Singapore

Yes, dissenting opinions are permitted. There are no statistics that show whether or not dissenting opinions are common in practice in Singapore.

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37. What, if any, are the legal and formal requirements for a valid and enforceable award?

Singapore

An arbitral award must be made in writing and signed by the arbitrator(s). In arbitral proceedings with more than one arbitrator, the signatures of the majority of all members of the arbitral tribunal shall suffice, provided that the reason for any omitted signature is stated (article 31 of the Model Law).

The award must state the reasons upon which it is based, unless the parties have agreed otherwise. The award must also state its date and the place of arbitration. 

After the award is made, a copy signed by the arbitrators shall be delivered to each party.

Additionally, the applicable arbitral rules may provide that the award must be approved by the Registrar of the relevant arbitral institution (eg, Rule 32.3 SIAC Rules 2016, article 34 ICC Rules 2021).

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38. What time limits, if any, should parties be aware of in respect of an award? In particular, do any time limits govern the interpretation and correction of an award?

Singapore

Under article 33 of the Model Law, within 30 days of receipt of the award, unless the parties have agreed otherwise:

  • a party with notice to the other party may request the arbitral tribunal to correct in the award any errors in computation, any clerical or typographical errors or any errors of similar nature;
  • if so agreed by the parties, a party, with notice to the other party, may request the arbitral tribunal to give an interpretation of a specific point or part of the award; and
  • a party, with notice to the other party, may request the arbitral tribunal to make an additional award as to claims presented in the arbitral proceedings but omitted from the award.

Within 30 days of the date of the award, the tribunal may also correct in the award any errors in computation, any clerical or typographical errors or any errors of similar nature.

If necessary, the tribunal may extend the time limit within which it shall make a correction, interpretation or an additional award.

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Costs and interest

39. Are parties able to recover fees paid and costs incurred? Does the "loser pays" rule generally apply in your jurisdiction?

Singapore

Yes, parties are able to recover fees paid and costs incurred and the ‘loser pays’ rule generally applies under Singapore law.

Subject to any agreement of the parties, tribunals seated in Singapore have broad discretion to allocate costs as between the winning party and losing party. It is normal for tribunals to award most, if not all, of the legal costs and costs of the arbitration (which includes the arbitrators’ fees and expenses) in favour of the overall successful party.    

Under section 21 of the IAA, unless the arbitral award directs otherwise, any costs directed by an award to be paid are assessable by the Registrar of the SIAC.

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40. Can interest be included on the principal claim and costs? Is there any mandatory or customary rate?

Singapore

Yes, interest can be included on the principal claim and costs. The tribunal is empowered under section 20 of the IAA to award simple or compound interest from such date, at such rate and with such rest as the tribunal considers appropriate, for any period ending not later than the date of the payment on the whole or any part of any sum which is awarded by the tribunal.

There is no mandatory rate of interest. In practice, as to post-award interest, unless otherwise agreed between the parties and subject to the currency of the principal claim and costs, tribunals tend to award the post-judgment debt interest rate of 5.33 per cent per annum (paragraph 77(5), Supreme Court Practice Directions 2013) as the rate of interest for post-award interest.

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Challenging awards

41. Are there any grounds on which an award may be appealed before the courts of your jurisdiction?

Singapore

For arbitrations governed by the AA, under section 49 of the AA, a party may appeal to the court on a question of law arising out of an award. This does not apply to an error in the application of law.

For arbitrations governed by the IAA, such appeals are not permitted.

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42. Are there any other bases on which an award may be challenged, and if so what?

Singapore

The Singapore courts generally practice the principle of minimal curial intervention when considering challenges to arbitral awards, which is consistent with the Singapore government’s pro-arbitration stance as well as the legislative framework of the IAA, AA and the Model Law. Thus, the Singapore courts will only intervene in ‘clear and obvious’ cases (TMM Division v Pacific Richfield Marine [2013] SGHC 186) where one or more of the limited grounds for challenging an award are made out (see section 24 of IAA, section 48(1) of AA, and article 34 of the Model Law):

  • a party to the arbitration agreement was under some incapacity;
  • a 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 or her case;
  • the award deals with a dispute not contemplated by or not falling within the terms of the submission to arbitration, or contains decisions on matters beyond the scope of the submission to arbitration;
  • the composition of the arbitral tribunal or the arbitral procedure was not in accordance with the agreement of the parties;
  • the subject matter of the dispute is not capable of settlement of arbitration under the law of Singapore; and
  • the award is in conflict with the public policy of Singapore.

In addition to article 34 of the Model Law, the General Division of the High Court may set aside an award if:

  • the award was affected by fraud or corruption.
  • there was a breach of natural justice in making the award that had prejudiced the rights of any party.

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43. Is it open to the parties to exclude by agreement any right of appeal or other recourse that the law of your jurisdiction may provide?

Singapore

Appeals are not allowed for arbitrations conducted under the IAA.

For arbitrations conducted under the AA, the parties are entitled to agree to exclude the right to appeal on a question of law arising out of an award (section 49(2) AA).

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Enforcement in your jurisdiction

44. Will an award that has been set aside by the courts in the seat of arbitration be enforced in your jurisdiction?

Singapore

The Singapore courts may refuse enforcement of a foreign award if it has been set aside ‘by a competent authority of the country in which … the award was made’ (section 31(2)(f) of IAA).

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45. What trends, if any, are suggested by recent enforcement decisions? What is the prevailing approach of the courts in this regard?

Singapore

As noted above, the Singapore courts generally tend to uphold and enforce arbitration awards unless there is a ground to refuse enforcement of an award. The Singapore courts adopt the principle of minimal curial intervention when the court addresses challenges to arbitral awards, which means that the courts should not, without good reason, interfere with the arbitral process. This also means that there is no right of recourse to the courts where an arbitrator has made an error of fact or law (BLC and others v BLB and another [2014] 4 SLR 79; Gokul Patnaik v Nine Rivers Capital Ltd [2021] 3 SLR 22).

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46. To what extent might a state or state entity successfully raise a defence of state or sovereign immunity at the enforcement stage?

Singapore

A state or a state entity may be able to raise a defence of state immunity in respect of public acts, but not private acts (see the Singapore State Immunity Act 1979). However, it is expressly provided that where a state has agreed in writing to submit a dispute to arbitration, the state is not immune in respect of proceedings in the Singapore courts that relate to the arbitration (section 11 of the Singapore State Immunity Act).

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Further considerations

47. To what extent are arbitral proceedings in your jurisdiction confidential?

Singapore

Arbitral proceedings are generally confidential. There is a general obligation of confidentiality implied under common law, as it can be implied based on the nature of arbitration itself (AAY v AAZ [2011] 1 SLR 1093, Myanma Yaung Chi Oo v Win Win Nu [2003] 2 SLR(R) 547; International Coal v Kristle Trading [2009] 1 SLR(R) 945; BBW v BBX [2016] 5 SLR 755). This means that the existence of the arbitration, the award, the arbitral proceedings, the tribunal’s deliberations and the documents produced or created in the arbitration are confidential (Confidential Information).

Singapore law recognises exceptions to the obligation of confidentiality in arbitration. Disclosure of Confidential Information may be permitted under the following exceptions:

  • express or implied consent;
  • by order or leave of court;
  • as reasonably necessary for the protection of the legitimate interest of an arbitration party;
  • as a requirement of the interests of justice; and
  • as a requirement of public interest.

The court would examine the nature of the documents to be disclosed, to whom the disclosure is made, and the purpose of the disclosure.

To maintain the confidentiality of arbitrations, court proceedings under the IAA are to be heard in private, unless the court orders otherwise on its own motion or upon an application of a party (section 22 of IAA).

Judgments issued in respect of court proceedings under the IAA that are heard in private may be redacted (section 23 IAA).

The court also has the inherent power to grant a sealing order in the interests of preserving the confidentiality of related arbitration proceedings. A sealing order prevents third parties from inspecting the case file. The names of the parties and other identifying information in court judgments on arbitration-related matters are usually redacted.

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48. What is the position relating to evidence produced and pleadings filed in the arbitration? Are these confidential? Is there any way that they might be relied on in other proceedings (whether arbitral or court proceedings)?

Singapore

Evidence produced and pleadings filed in the arbitration are subject to the obligation of confidentiality in arbitration.

The parties, their representatives, tribunals and arbitration institutions are bound by this obligation of confidentiality.

Evidence produced and pleadings filed in one arbitration might be relied on in other arbitral proceedings or court proceedings if, upon the application of the disclosing party, the arbitral tribunal finds that such disclosure is permitted within one of the recognised exceptions under Singapore law or the relevant arbitral rules.

A party may rely on evidence produced and pleadings filed in the arbitration in related court proceedings under the exception that such disclosure is reasonably necessary to protect the legitimate interests of an arbitrating party vis-à-vis a third party in order to found a cause of action or defend a claim. 

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49. What ethical codes and other professional standards, if any, apply to counsel and arbitrators conducting proceedings in your jurisdiction?

Singapore

Counsel and arbitrators who are lawyers called to the Singapore bar are bound by the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules 2015, as well as the Legal Profession Act 1966. These set out ethical standards and duties by which counsel and arbitrators must abide by.

In addition, the AA, IAA and Model Law impose additional duties on arbitrators, for instance, to hear both sides of the argument (section 22 AA, article 18 Model Law), and to be guided by the 1986 IBA Rules of Ethics for International Arbitrators. The SIAC Code of Ethics for an Arbitrator apply to tribunals in SIAC administered arbitrations.

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50. Are there any particular procedural expectations or assumptions of which counsel or arbitrators participating in an international arbitration with its seat in your jurisdiction should be aware?

Singapore

As Singapore is a common law jurisdiction, it is typically expected that the process of evidence-taking is adversarial, and entails cross-examination of witnesses.

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51. Is third-party funding permitted in your jurisdiction? If so, are there any rules governing its use?

Singapore

Yes, third-party funding is permitted for international arbitrations in Singapore. Under the Civil Law (Third-Party Funding) Regulations 2017, third-party funding is permitted under two conditions:

  • the funding agreement must be concluded with a qualifying third-party funder; and
  • the proceedings must fall under a list of prescribed dispute resolution proceedings. This includes, among others, arbitration proceedings, court proceedings arising from or in connection with any arbitration proceedings (Rule 3(a), Civil Law (Third-Party Funding) Regulations 2017).

Notably, the categories of proceedings for which third-party funding is permitted were expanded in 2021 to include proceedings commenced in the SICC, so long as these proceedings remain in the SICC.

Although there is no specific disclosure obligation in Singapore, the Professional Conduct Rules regulating the conduct of Singapore-qualified lawyers impose a duty on lawyers practising in Singapore to disclose the existence of any third-party funding, as well as the identity and address of any third-party funders involved (Rule 49A of Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules 2015).

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