Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The first international arbitration institution in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Centre for Commercial Arbitration (SCCA), was officially inaugurated in October 2016. The launch came two years after the Kingdom’s Council of Ministers resolved in 2014 to launch a centre to administer civil and commercial disputes, with an ambitious vision of becoming the preferred ADR choice in the region by 2030.
The SCCA Rules, effective from May 2016, are based on the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules and have been developed in partnership with the AAA-ICDR. At the same time, the SCCA Rules were drafted to be consistent with the Saudi Arbitration Law issued in 2012. The SCCA Rules are generally in line with most major arbitration rules and include provisions regarding the appointment of an emergency arbitrator and joinder of third parties. Fees follow an ad valorem principle. In line with the new 2012 Arbitration Law, the SCCA has underlined that parties can appoint whomever they choose as arbitrators. The SCCA Rules are expressly stated to apply without prejudice to the rules of Sharia. However, as a matter of public policy, enforcement in Saudi Arabia is in any event only possible if an award does not violate Sharia principles.
While the opening of the SCCA is certainly welcome, the eyes of the international arbitration community will remain on enforcement of domestic and foreign arbitration awards in Saudi Arabia. While, in the recent years, this process has become easier, it is hoped that the opening of the SCCA (coupled with the government’s plan to open three branches of the SCCA in Saudi Arabia by 2020) signal a desire to become a modern arbitration-friendly jurisdiction.
It remains to be seen if the SCCA will make any inroads on the position occupied by other existing regional arbitration centres (such as DIAC and DIFC/LCIA) and the local courts. It also remains to be seen whether the Saudi government will include SCCA dispute resolution provisions in its contracts with third parties (as opposed to its previous default position of Saudi courts).
United Arab Emirates
The Emirates Maritime Arbitration Centre (EMAC), a specialised maritime arbitration centre, commenced operations in September 2016. EMAC is intended to address the dispute resolution needs of the growing maritime sector in the region.
EMAC’s rules are based on the 2010 UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules and provide for the DIFC as the default seat of arbitration, which means that the DIFC court will be the supervisory court. The advantage of this arrangement is that awards recognized and enforced by the DIFC Court are automatically enforced by the UAE courts. Final EMAC DIFC awards will be enforceable in other convention countries under the New York Convention.