OPENING REMARKS BY MS QUAH LEY HOON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, MARITIME AND PORT AUTHORITY OF SINGAPORE, AT THE SINGAPORE CHAMBER OF MARITIME ARBITRATION WEBINAR ON 21 APRIL 2021, 3:00 PM

21 April 2021

1     Good afternoon Chairman of SCMA, Justice Chao, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I would first like to thank the Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration or SCMA for organising this webinar during Singapore Maritime Week 2021. I am glad to see arbitration featured in this year’s Singapore Maritime Week. It is a key component in Singapore’s offerings as an international maritime centre by offering a neutral, cost-effective and flexible framework to settle disputes fairly and expeditiously.

Update on Maritime Singapore

2     Despite the pandemic, Maritime Singapore, including SCMA, fared well last year.

  1. Our port handled the second highest container throughput in history at 36.9 million TEUs. We registered our second highest bunker sales, retaining our lead as the top bunkering port. And recorded our highest vessel arrival tonnage.
  2. On the international maritime centre front, 17 international shipping groups either set up in Singapore or expanded their operations here. Singapore will continue to work with our industry to grow and bring new operations into Singapore.
  3. Let’s talk about SCMA. SCMA saw a 5 per cent increase in cases handled, and I know that SCMA prides itself as a unique service provider to the maritime and trade eco-system in line with SCMA’s new vision – to become the leading maritime arbitration centre in Asia.

Bringing arbitration to the next frontier

3     I thought I would share three key thoughts on how I see arbitration further contributing to the dynamism of Maritime Singapore – P for Pragmatic, I for Industry outreach, and N for New offerings. Just like a PIN which is essential when it comes to sewing.

First, Pragmatism – how do we make arbitration the primary option for dispute resolution

4     It is said that when in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. What one needs in this case is a pragmatic way out where trust and relationship can be preserved. Arbitration offers neutrality, autonomy and confidentiality. Through conducting non-administered arbitration, institutions such as SCMA provide speedy and cost-effective resolution.

5     How does Singapore fare in the international arbitration space? In the 2018 Queen Mary White & Case Survey, Singapore ranked the most preferred seat of arbitration in Asia and third in the world in the same survey. This suggests that Singapore as an arbitration seat is well-accepted by parties from around the world.

6     There are good reasons for this. We have a trusted legal system, a supportive judiciary, and modern, progressive laws. We regularly review them to keep up with international best practices and business needs. In addition, Singapore offers a full suite of dispute resolution institutions supported by world-class infrastructure for dispute resolution hearings.

7     Generally, the more efficient and expeditious the resolution, the better it is for parties. That was the thinking when MPA and the Singapore Maritime Foundation, or SMF, supported the reconstitution of SCMA in 2009. The whole objective was to provide a neutral, cost-effective and flexible arbitration framework for the international maritime community.

Second, SCMA must stay close to the Industry to cater to their needs

8     Achieving the goal of the preferred maritime arbitration centre in Asia will require collective effort from all stakeholders. Stakeholders such as yourselves - SCMA’s users and members. Why? You are a rich source of feedback on user experience. SCMA, therefore, will need to stay close to the industry to continually take in feedback and refine its rules, procedures and services.

9     Another critical group of stakeholders for SCMA is its panel of arbitrators. Over the years, SCMA has built a panel of over 110 dedicated maritime experts specialising in a wide range of practice areas. This lends credibility. In addition, the diversity of arbitrators – across 17 countries of residence – strengthens SCMA’s credence as an international institution. I understand that SCMA is enhancing its empanelment process to continue growing its panel to be highly skilled to resolve disputes of the future.

10    The youth forms another important group of stakeholders. Young people today are the leaders of tomorrow. To that end, SCMA has opened up a new category of student membership to raise awareness of arbitration and SCMA. These student members would become brand ambassadors for SCMA as they progress to the workforce.

Third, New offerings - arbitration institutions must tap on new trends such as digitalisation and decarbonisation to offer greater value

Increasing digitalisation in arbitration proceedings

11    The pandemic has catalysed digitalisation in many industries. We are now seeing technology tools being incorporated into various aspects of the arbitration process such as virtual hearings.

12 In October 2020, SCMA published the Specimen Directions for Virtual Hearings to provide guidance to arbitrators, tribunals and users. It also conducted an electronic public consultation exercise on SCMA Rules. Furthermore, SCMA created QR codes to make communications on SCMA clauses and case filing easier. These are relatively simple but impactful developments, which is appreciated by the industry.

Emerging need for arbitration in climate change-related disputes

13    Besides digitalisation, climate change-related dispute resolution is expected to gain traction. More stakeholders are participating in climate change activities. This may have an impact on underlying agreements, contracts or contractual terms. Disagreements on these terms can give rise to climate change disputes, including in the maritime sector.

14    SCMA must position itself to meet the industry’s emerging needs and build expertise in this field.

MPA will continue to support SCMA

15    In the area of maritime arbitration, MPA will continue to support SCMA as it works to strengthen its offerings and maintain its relevance to businesses. This is part of the Singapore government’s broader effort to develop Singapore as a leading centre for dispute resolution. I hope my sharing of PIN will help and be useful.

16    Let me also congratulate SCMA on its new promotional video which I understand would be broadcast next. I hope you have an insightful discussion at this webinar and a meaningful Singapore Maritime Week experience the rest of the week. Thank you once again and have a good afternoon ahead. I look forward to seeing SCMA soar to greater heights.