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The beginnings of the SICC

The idea to create a Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) to grow the legal services sector and to expand the scope for the internationalisation and export of Singapore law was first mooted by The Honourable Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon at the Opening of Legal Year 2013. Soon thereafter on 13 May 2013, a committee co-chaired by Senior Minister of State for Law and Education, Indranee Rajah SC and the then Judge of Appeal VK Rajah and comprising eminent international and local lawyers and legal experts was officially constituted to study the viability of developing a framework for the establishment of the SICC.

The Report of the Singapore International Commercial Court Committee was released on 29 November 2013. The government welcomed the recommendations of the Committee and took it into consideration. Shortly thereafter, a public consultation on the report was conducted between 3 December 2013 and 31 January 2014. The framework for the establishment of the SICC was finalised in the fourth quarter of 2014, and the SICC was officially launched on 5 January 2015.

A prime destination for international commercial dispute resolution

Singapore is widely recognised as the leading arbitration hub in Asia and the preferred base for international law firms as well as corporate counsel of multi-national corporations (MNCs) within Southeast Asia and South Asia. Building on the success of Singapore’s arbitration sector, the SICC seeks to further boost Singapore’s value as a leading forum for legal services and international commercial dispute resolution, offering litigants the option of having their disputes adjudicated by a panel of experienced judges comprising specialist commercial judges from Singapore and international judges from both civil law and common law traditions.

Singapore prides itself in having an efficient, competent and honest judiciary. For years, Singapore has sought to position itself as a neutral venue for dispute resolution between parties from different jurisdictions. In building upon its trusted hub status, Singapore has benefitted from the following advantages:

  1. a well-developed and business-friendly legal system based on the common law;
  2. lawyers who are commercially experienced;
  3. sound judges; and
  4. an increasingly sophisticated commercial jurisprudence.

While parties may be able to pursue their claims in international arbitration, they may prefer to resolve their disputes in the SICC to take advantage of a well-designed court-based mechanism which will enable parties to avoid one or more of the following problems often encountered in international arbitration:

  1. over-formalisation of, delay in, and rising costs of arbitration;
  2. concerns about the legitimacy of and ethical issues in arbitration;
  3. the lack of consistency of decisions and absence of developed jurisprudence;
  4. the absence of appeals; and
  5. the inability to join third parties to the arbitration.

Given the growing prominence of Asia as a choice destination for foreign trade and investment, Singapore’s strategic geographical location together with its well-developed and respected legal system and legal infrastructure makes it well placed to become the Asian dispute resolution hub to cater to the growth in cross-border, multi-jurisdictional disputes in Asia.

The SICC serves as a companion rather than a competitor to arbitration as it seeks to provide parties in transnational business with one more option among a suite of viable alternatives to resolve transnational commercial disputes. It enhances Singapore’s share of the global legal services pie without compromising Singapore’s success as a seat of international arbitration as well as the international recognition and acclaim enjoyed by the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC).

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