Singapore: Singapore Parliament moves to Assist Foreign Arbitrations

CPN Update
Last Updated: 31 May 2010
Most Read Contributor in Singapore, September 2019

By Subramanian Pillai and Peter Low

A 2007 Report by the International Chamber of Commerce – International Court of Arbitration (ICC-ICA) ranked Singapore as the leading city in Asia for ICC Arbitrations and alongside Paris, London, Geneva and Zurich, as one of the most popular venues for ICC Arbitrations in the world. Singapore's evolution into the pre eminent arbitration venue in Asia received a further boost recently with the launch of Maxwell Chambers as an integrated one-stop arbitration centre providing world-class hearing facilities with state of the art services.

However, achieving excellence as a prime arbitration venue for international arbitrations may well not be enough. Singapore must also be seen as an active participant on the world stage in promoting the effective administration of international arbitrations, wherever these arbitrations are conducted. In recognition of this, the Singapore Parliament passed the International Arbitration Amendment Act (the "Amendment Act") in October 2009. The Amendment Act, which came into force on 1 January 2010, introduced new provisions to the International Arbitration Act ("IAA"). This article looks at Section 12A of the IAA which was introduced by way of the recent amendments to extend the Court's powers to grant interim relief to parties engaged in international arbitrations conducted outside Singapore.

The primary objective of Section 12A of the IAA was to rectify the discrepancy that existed in the earlier version of the IAA which was exposed in the wake of the rulings in Swift-Fortune Ltd v Magnifica Marine SA [2006] 2 SLR (R) 323, Front Carriers Ltd v Atlantic & Orient Shipping Corp [2006] 3 SLR 854 and the decision of the Singapore Court of Appeal in Swift-Fortune Ltd v Magnifica Marine SA [2007] 1 SLR 629.

Under the earlier version of the IAA, Section 12 (7) provided the Court with the same powers in an International Arbitration as the Court had in relation to a litigation action or matter before the Court. Section 12(1)(a) to (i) specifies the interim measures which the Court may grant in aid of arbitrations as follows:

  1. The power to order that a party to the arbitration provide security for costs of the arbitration;
  2. The power to order a party to the arbitration to provide discovery of documents or answer interrogatories under oath;
  3. The power to order or direct that the evidence to be adduced at the arbitration be in the form of an affidavit;
  4. The power to order the preservation, interim custody or sale of any property which is or forms part of the subject-matter of the dispute in the arbitration;
  5. The power to order that samples to be taken of, or any observation to be made of or experiment conducted upon, any property which is or forms part of the subject-matter of the dispute in the arbitration;
  6. The power to order the preservation and interim custody of any evidence for the purposes of the proceedings in the arbitration;
  7. The power to order that the amount in dispute in the arbitration be secured;
  8. The power to grant Mareva Injunctions (commonly known as freezing Orders) to ensure that any award made in the arbitration is not rendered ineffectual by the dissipation or disposal of assets by a party to the arbitration; and
  9. The power to grant any other interim injunction or any other interim measure in aid of the arbitration.

The original version of the IAA was based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law ("Model Law") that came into effect in 1985. Under Article 17 of the 1985 version of the Model Law, arbitral tribunals were provided with wide powers to grant interim measures in aid of arbitration. The general policy that existed in 1985 was that the powers of the local courts to intervene or interfere in arbitral proceedings should be excluded save only where the Model law permitted such intervention. Article 9 of the 1985 version of the Model Law enabled parties to an arbitration to apply to the local courts and for the courts to grant interim measures in aid of the arbitration. But, given the policy of minimalist intervention by the courts, there was a lack of clarity as to the extent of the courts' power or jurisdiction to grant such interim measures.

The 1985 version of the Model Law was revised by UNCITRAL in 2006. The 2006 revisions introduced a new Chapter IV A on preliminary orders and interim measures. This Chapter contained detailed provisions on the powers of an arbitral tribunal. More significantly, it contained specific provisions governing the local courts' powers to order interim measures in aid of an arbitration. Article 17J of the revised Model Law now states that "a court shall have the same power of issuing an interim measure in relation to arbitration proceedings irrespective of whether their place is in the territory of the enacting State, as it has in relation to proceedings in court". Clearly, one of the objectives of the 2006 revision was to clarify and extend the local courts' powers to aid foreign arbitrations.

The question in Singapore was whether Section 12(7) read together with Section 12(1)(a) to (i) empowered the Singapore courts to grant interim measures in aid of a foreign arbitration, that is to say, where the arbitration is not conducted in Singapore but in some other foreign venue. This issue came up for determination before the Singapore Court of Appeal in Swift-Fortune Ltd v Magnifica Marine SA [2007] 1 SLR 629.

After carefully reviewing the various statutory provisions governing the Court's jurisdiction and Article 9 of the Model Law, the Court of Appeal ruled that Section 12(7) of the IAA did not apply to international arbitrations conducted outside Singapore. The Court further ruled that Article 9 of the Model Law did not confer jurisdiction on the courts to grant the interim measures set out Section 12(1)(a) to (i) in aid of foreign arbitrations and that Article 9 has "no bearing on the meaning and effect" of section 12(7) of the IAA. In a nutshell, the Singapore courts did not have the power to grant interim relief with respect to foreign arbitrations.

The Court of Appeal's ruling in Swift-Fortune revealed a striking disparity between the progressive approach adopted by UNCITRAL in the 2006 revision to the Model Law and the more limited approach of the Singapore courts in aiding foreign arbitrations. In recognition of the need to adopt a more consistent approach, the new Sections 12A(1) and (2) were introduced to remedy the situation. The original Section 12(7) has been deleted and the newly introduced Sections 12A(1) and (2) empower the Singapore courts to grant some of the interim measures set out under Section 12(1) (a) to (i) of the IAA in aid of international arbitrations which are conducted outside Singapore.

It must be noted that the new amendments do not represent an importation of the 2006 revisions to the Model Law into Singapore law. When it comes to foreign arbitrations, the Singapore courts still do not have the power to make orders in relation to certain interim measures set out under Section 12(1)(a) to (i). These relate to the power to order security of costs, discovery of documents or the administration of interrogatories. This limitation recognizes the central role of the arbitral tribunal as the master of its own procedure and that procedural issues such as discovery of documents, the administration of interrogatories and security of costs should rightfully be left to the arbitral tribunal and to the agreement of the parties.

Under the new Section 12A(4) of the IAA, where the case "is one of urgency," the Singapore court, acting on the application of a party to the foreign arbitration or a proposed party to such an arbitration, may grant interim relief for the purpose of preserving evidence or assets." Under Section 12A(5), if the case "is not of urgency," the Singapore court may grant such an interim relief only if the applicant (who is a party to the foreign arbitration ) has obtained the permission of the foreign arbitral tribunal or the agreement in writing of the other party towards the making of the application for interim relief. In the latter case, the applicant is required to give notice of the application to the other party who has the right of attendance before the court at the hearing of the application.

In both cases however, Section 12A(3) and (6) provides that, the Singapore court may refuse to make an order if the fact that the place of arbitration is outside Singapore or likely to be outside Singapore makes it inappropriate to make such order and/or if the arbitral tribunal, and any other institution has the power and is able "to act effectively" on such applications. The Court may refuse to make an order in cases where the applicant is unable to show that the other party has substantial assets in Singapore or is unable to show any link between the foreign arbitration and Singapore.

Lastly, under the new Section 12A(7) of the IAA, the interim measure ordered by the Singapore court shall cease to have effect in whole or in part (as the case may be) if the arbitral tribunal, or any such arbitral institution having power to act in relation to the subject-matter of the order, makes an order which expressly relates to the whole or part of the order made by the Singapore court. This provision again recognizes the central role played by the foreign arbitral tribunal in regulating its own proceedings and the need for the courts to be careful in usurping the functions of the foreign arbitral tribunal.

The new Section 12A of the IAA strongly mirrors provisions in the UK Arbitration Act 1996. It is, therefore, anticipated that English case law under the UK Arbitration Act will be instructive in understanding how the Singapore courts may interpret their powers and jurisdiction under the new Section 12A in the near future.

In conclusion, the new amendments seek to augment the Singapore courts' powers but with the appropriate restrictions on the exercise of these new powers. This demonstrates a desire to strike a fine balance between extending the courts' powers in assisting parties to a foreign arbitration without compromising the general policy of minimalist intervention by the courts in arbitral proceedings. The amendments are truly progressive in their scope and nature and will, no doubt, boost the city state's continuing efforts to promote Singapore as a leading venue for international arbitration.

If you wish to have further information on this update or wish to discuss how it may potentially have an impact on your business, please feel free to contact Subramanian Pillai, Partner, or, Peter Low, Partner.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions