Parties rarely want to be engaged in an international dispute. People and companies want to get on with their business and not have to tussle with one another. Litigation or arbitration, by all means, is a harrowing experience. Personal passions apart, being involved in an international arbitration is rarely a matter of joy, except to counsel. Obtaining relief quickly is the key factor.

Securing final favourable relief, however, requires time. A party may have pressing concerns that need to be addressed immediately. These are, most often, measures required to protect the interest of a party, such as misuse of intellectual property or confidential information, protection against some action by a third party, being able to sell a property, obtaining information urgently, and so on. These are commonly referred to as interim relief – i.e., relief granted in the interim before or while a main claim is being adjudicated.

When in court, such interim relief is sought for, and granted by, the court. In an arbitration, most institutional rules prescribe that an arbitral tribunal has the power to grant such interim relief. For instance, the rules of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), SIAC Rules 2013, state specifically (in rule 26.1) that an arbitral tribunal may, at the request of a party “issue an order or an award granting an injunction or any other interim relief it deems appropriate”.

The issue is compounded when there is no arbitral tribunal in place, since it may take a significant amount of time to set up a tribunal, depending on the requirements of a particular arbitration agreement or the institutional rules. In such cases, parties can normally approach a court to request interim measures for protection. The UNCITRAL Model Law on international commercial arbitration recognises and provides for this (in article 9) and countries such as Singapore that have adopted the Model Law provide similar provisions in their legislation, namely section 12A of the Singapore International Arbitration Act. 

Jul-Sep 2013 issue

Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC)