Choosing an arbitration centre in Asia – Hong Kong or Singapore?

Out-Law Guide | 20 Oct 2015 | 2:52 pm | 2 min. read

The two main arbitration centres in Asia are the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) and the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). The centres have a lot in common, but also some distinguishing characteristics that can help you to decide which is right for you.

Both HKIAC and SIAC are recognised as among the best arbitration centres in the world. A survey by the Queen Mary University of London found HKIAC to be the "most preferred arbital institution outside Europe", the third best such institution worldwide, and the most improved seat. SIAC followed close behind, as fourth most preferred and second most improved.

Rules

HKIAC was formed first, in 1985, and generally uses the Administered Arbitration Rules 2013 for both international and domestic arbitrations. SIAC, which commenced operations in 1991, mainly uses its own rules and is currently using the 2013 edition of these. Both institutions will also use the rules of other institutions upon the parties' request, and can administer ad hoc arbitration.

Fees

Fees for the two are broken down into three parts: registration or filing fees, administrative fees and arbitrators' fees. Overall costs for the two are generally similar, with SIAC marginally more expensive.

For example for a $1 million dispute HKIAC's fees would be around $62,000 and SIAC's would be around $65,000. For a $500m dispute HKIAC's fees would be $445,000 and SIAC's around $555,000.

Timing

There is no specified time limit for rendering an award in Hong Kong, although an arbitrator who is too slow can be removed by the court. Experience suggests that awards are generally issued within 12 to 18 months, or within six months under an expedited procedure.

Expedited procedures allow claims of over HK$25 million (US$3.2 million) to be awarded within six months if both parties agree, or in situations deemed to be of "exceptional urgency". Generally these disputes are decided on the basis of documentary evidence.

In Singapore, awards are generally rendered between nine and 12 months for sole member tribunals and 12 to 18 months when there are three members. Singapore also has an expedited procedure with awards in six months, available if the disputed amount is no more than S$5m (US$3.6m), if the parties agree or in cases of urgency.

Enforcement

Both Hong Kong and Singapore are signatories to the 1958 New York Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Arbitral Awards, which means that that arbitral awards from either jurisdiction are enforceable in over 150 signatory countries.

Emergency arbitration

Both centres offer emergency arbitration when an urgent decision is needed, such as for preservation or freezing orders, or access to inspect a property. An award or order is usually made within eight to 10 days in Singapore, and 15 days in Hong Kong.

Arbitrators

Both centres naturally claim to have high quality arbitrators available. SIAC says that it has over 400 expert arbitrators drawn from 40 common and civil law jurisdictions on its panel of legal and industry experts, while Hong Kong lists 13 languages spoken, expertise in six areas of law and jurisdiction in both common and civil law in countries around the world.

Local court attitude

The courts in Hong Kong and Singapore use minimum intervention and arbitration awards are rarely set aside by the courts.

Facilities

HKIAC was designed to meet the needs of as many different meetings and hearings as possible, with 20 meeting spaces including seven hearing rooms and 10 conference rooms of varying sizes. These can cater for between four and 185 people.

Singapore's Maxwell Chambers is the world's first integrated dispute resolution complex, with 10 hearing rooms and 12 preparation rooms, according to SIAC.