Just three years ago, the British Virgin Islands had an
outdated Arbitration Act that had not been amended since its
passage in 1976 and which incorporated neither the Model Law nor
the New York Convention. It could not on any grounds compete with
other, already well-established arbitration jurisdictions as a
possible venue for arbitration proceedings. A lot has changed since
In 2010, a Commercial Court was established, providing a
specialised forum for litigation – but arbitration continued
to lag behind. Now, the British Virgin Islands has a new
Arbitration Act. Based substantially on the Model Law, the
Arbitration Act was passed by Parliament on 17 December 2013 and is
awaiting royal assent.
The Arbtration Act provides for the establishment of a British
Virgin Islands International Arbitration Centre.
There will be no stamp duty on arbitral awards.
The multiple mechanisms for enforcing awards are to be replaced
with a single test for enforcement.
New York Convention
The Arbitration Act does not deal with the accession of the
British Virgin Islands to the New York Convention because the UK
Foreign & Commonwealth Office manages international relations
for the British Virgin Islands. However, the Act complies with the
requirements of the New York Convention, and the UK has since
extended the application of the Convention to the British Virgin
Islands from 25 May 2014. This means that a British Virgin Islands
arbitration award will now be, prima facie, enforceable in the many
countries which have acceded to the New York Convention.
Given the number of companies, holding companies, joint
ventures, hedge funds and trust funds established in the British
Virgin Islands or conducting business there, this part of the world
clearly has significant potential as an arbitration venue.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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