Singapore launches new court specialized in international commercial disputes

The Singapore International Commercial Court (“SICC”), launched in January 2015, was established with the ambition of reinforcing Singapore’s position as a ‘hub’ in international dispute resolution, on the same level as Paris, London and Hong Kong.

According to its statutes, the SICC has the judicial authority of the Singapore High Court – the lower division of the Singapore Supreme Court – and is designed to deal with transnational commercial disputes. Pursuant to the SICC rules (Order no. 110, Rule 7 of the Rules of Court), the SICC has jurisdiction to hear a case when:

  • the dispute is characterized as international and commercial;
  • the courts of Singapore are designated “in a written jurisdiction agreement”; and
  • the parties do not seek any relief in the form of, or connected with, a prerogative order”.

First, the purpose of this court is primarily based on a consensual nature of the dispute: no claim can be initiated without a written jurisdiction agreement.

Second, with a panel of 26 civil and common law specialists, among which leading international judges, the SICC’s purpose is clearly to adjudicate transnational disputes, to which foreign laws may be applied.

A multi-cultural panel of judges for a Court with an international purpose is an innovation, but satisfying in that it should ensure an efficient application of both civil and common law.

The parties may be assisted by foreign counsel pursuant to Section 36P of the Legal Profession Act (Cap 161), which highlights the international aspirations of the SICC.

Although it has a judicial status, the SICC offers flexibility to the parties, who have the possibility to ‘tailor’ the proceedings to their specific needs, similarly to what they would do in arbitration.  For example, the parties may agree on the rules applicable to the taking of evidence or the law governing the merits of the case.  In addition, Order no. 110, Rule 23 provides that the SICC is not bound by domestic procedural rules.  The Court may thus order the confidentiality of “any information or document relating to the case” (Order no.110, Rule 30) – although confidentiality is usually considered to be a specific feature of arbitration.

In spite of the obvious advantages of litigating before the SICC, it remains to be seen how the court’s rulings will be enforced abroad.

More information can be found on the SICC’s website here.

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