Update of arbitration procedures welcomed by Hill Dickinson

Legal firm Hill Dickinson has said that it welcomed the move by the London Maritime Arbitrators Association (LMAA) to revise its terms of procedure to include the recognition of virtual and semi-virtual hearings.

Andrew Lee, Head of the firm’s Singapore office, said that the move was “timely recognition of the way the business world has adapted to the Covid-19 travel restrictions and has embraced technology to enable work to carry on. The LMAA is sensible to embrace these new ways of working, which will no doubt continue post-pandemic, and to provide up-to-date rules and guidelines for the arbitration sector.”

The LMAA had said that “in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions over the last 18 months, many arbitration hearings and proceedings had to be conducted virtually or part-virtually. Accordingly, these new rules and guidelines provide welcome clarity to the process as, moving forward, virtual or part-virtual hearings are likely to be far more commonplace. This is expected to be the case even when international travel resumes given the significant savings as to costs and time of conducting hearings virtually or part-virtually.”

The newly-published revised LMAA terms of procedure came into effect on May 1st.

Another significant change in the new terms is in the new paragraph 10, which provides a more straightforward mechanism for the appointment of a sole arbitrator. If a party does not appoint its arbitrator within 14 days (or within the agreed timeframe) after receiving due notice to do so from the other party, the other party may, without any further notice to the defaulting party, appoint its arbitrator as sole arbitrator.

A new paragraph 12 deals with substituting arbitrators – it grants the LMAA president the discretionary power to appoint a substitute arbitrator in circumstances where the original arbitrator is incapable of conducting the proceedings or attending the hearing. Similarly, this addition potentially provides a faster avenue to substitute an arbitrator as compared to filing a formal application to court for a substitute arbitrator.

The new terms also provide updated guidance on the 2017 terms with key amendments including:

  • The constitution and powers of the arbitral tribunal;
  • The recognition of virtual and semi-virtual hearings and the applicable procedures;
  • Guidance on the preparation and content of witness statements; and
  • The requirement for more detailed cost estimates in the LMAA Questionnaires.