Dr. Hamed Merah
The Saudi Center for Commercial Arbitration (SCCA) is a not-for-profit NGO established by Saudi Cabinet Decree number 257, dated 15 March 2014, to administer arbitrations, mediations and other ADR proceedings where the parties agree to refer their matter to the SCCA for administration under its Rules and Procedures. Its services are provided in accordance with international standards and best practices in Arabic and English. The SCCA operates in an ADR-friendly environment in full harmony with the judicial system, and with the full endorsement and support of the government for its important work, enhancing the ease of doing businesses in the Kingdom. To reinforce the SCCA’s independence its board, which consists of non-government officials appointed by the prime minister, is given full operational autonomy.
Since its launch in October 2016, the SCCA has registered a significant number of cases with claims of up to US$100 million, involving domestic and international parties from industries such as banking, capital markets, construction, procurements and distribution.
The SCCA roster of arbitrators and mediators
The SCCA roster is composed of highly qualified and accomplished professionals from the legal and business communities with experience in the Kingdom and abroad. The roster has over 260 arbitrators and mediators from more than 20 countries, speaking over 10 languages. Its members have extensive experience and subject-matter expertise in various industries.
The establishment of the SCCA Court follows international best practices and is in line with the approach adopted by other leading international arbitral institutions. It is also timely considering the fast-growing SCCA caseload.
The SCCA Court is comprised of 15 highly qualified and accomplished arbitration experts with international reputations in the ADR industry from 13 different countries.
The SCCA Court is responsible for key administrative decisions and other technical matters to promote the quick and efficient running of SCCA administered arbitration and mediation.
SCCA Arbitration Rules
The second edition of the SCCA Arbitration Rules (came into effect on 1 May 2023) was developed with the expertise and support of the SCCA Rules Advisory Committee and the input from local and international practitioners, following extensive public consultation. The Rules are a result of a comprehensive review and improvement process aimed at enhancing efficiency, reducing costs, and optimizing the arbitration process.
The Rules introduce several amendments that promote effective case management and address emerging issues and practices.
Expedited Procedure Rules
The Expedited Procedure Rules applies alongside the SCCA Arbitration Rules and prevails over the Rules in case of conflict. The Expedited Procedure Rules were designed for disputes of reduced size or complexity, where the complete procedural protocol provided by the Rules is not justified. The most prominent feature of the Expedited Procedure Rules is that only one arbitrator is appointed to hear the case in a single hearing day. Moreover, the sole arbitrator must issue the final award within 30 days from the date of closure of the proceedings, or within 180 days from the date of the arbitrator’s appointment, whichever event occurs first. The Expedited Procedure Rules also provide parties with a fast tracked and streamlined process, the option of having the arbitrator decide the dispute based solely on written submissions, and abbreviated time limits.
The Expedited Procedure Rules automatically apply where the aggregate amount in dispute does not exceed SAR 4,000,000 (exclusive of costs of arbitration), but parties may opt into the Expedited Procedure Rules regardless of the aggregate amount in dispute.
Emergency Arbitrator Procedure
The Emergency Arbitrator Procedure Rules enable parties to seek emergency relief without having to wait for the constitution of the Arbitral Tribunal by applying for the appointment of an Emergency Arbitrator to consider the application.
Online Dispute Resolution Procedure Rules
The Online Dispute Resolution (“ODR”) Procedure Rules applies alongside the SCCA Arbitration Rules and prevails over the Rules in case of conflict. The ODR Procedure Rules are specifically tailored for small disputes where the aggregate amount in dispute does not exceed SAR 200,000 (exclusive of costs of arbitration).
Under the ODR Procedure Rules, the SCCA shall promptly appoint a sole arbitrator. The arbitrator shall then issue the final award within 30 days from the date of his or her appointment. The final award is typically based on the parties’ written submissions, unless the parties agree otherwise or the arbitrator deems it necessary to hold a hearing, which would typically be held via phone or videoconference.
Arbitration in Saudi Arabia
Arbitration in the Kingdom has been subject to substantial reform in recent years. The 2012 Saudi Arbitration Law is broadly modelled after the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration and has paved the way for a more arbitration-friendly era. It provides, among other things, party autonomy in the key areas of the applicable law, the rules governing the dispute, the place and language of arbitration, party representation, and the appointment of the arbitral tribunal. The law also grants protection to arbitral awards and confines any challenges to a limited amount of grounds (including shariah principles) and without review of the merits.
Arbitral awards are enforced in accordance with simple, prompt and effective procedures. Under the Saudi Enforcement Law, an arbitral award, to which an enforcement order is appended, is considered a writ of enforcement for which compulsory enforcement is permitted. In addition, the Kingdom is a signatory to the 1958 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, which requires Saudi courts to give effect to private arbitration agreements and the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards made in other contracting states.