On 1 October 2016, the DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre (DIFC-LCIA), a joint venture between the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), adopted new DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Rules (“2016 Rules”), which (i) mirror the LCIA Arbitration Rules (2014) with minor localized amendments and (ii) replace the 2008 DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Rules (“2008 Rules”). As a result of this action, the DIFC-LCIA inherited several changes intended to enhance and expedite arbitration proceedings, some of which are discussed below:
1. 2016 Rules Allow for the Consolidation of Arbitrations:
Provided that all relevant parties agree in writing, the 2016 Rules will allow for the consolidation of multiple arbitrations into one, which is subject to the approval of the DIFC-LCIA Court (“Court”). In contrast, the 2008 Rules were silent regarding this issue. Consolidated arbitrations can reduce costs, save time and avoid the complications inherent in parallel related arbitrations. It is generally understood that the relevant contracts do not need to include an express clause permitting consolidation (though it is preferable for such a clause to be included if the right to consolidate is intended) and that the relevant parties may later agree in writing to consolidation.
2. 2016 Rules Enable Appointment of an Emergency Arbitrator:
In the 2016 Rules, the DIFC-LCIA introduces the concept of an “emergency arbitrator”, whereby applications for an emergency arbitrator must be submitted prior to the formation of the arbitral tribunal and should include information regarding the specific grounds for requiring emergency relief.1 In the event of an emergency, any party to an arbitration proceeding may apply in writing to the Court for the appointment of a temporary emergency arbitrator to conduct emergency proceedings and resolve the dispute within a short time frame (generally within 14 days after the emergency arbitrator’s appointment).
3. 2016 Rules Strive to Increase Efficiency:
In addition to the above, several other changes in the 2016 Rules seek to expedite the arbitration process, including:
- Time frames for written submissions are reduced.2
- Arbitrators are obligated to dedicate sufficient time and diligence to ensure the expeditious and efficient conduct of the arbitration.3
- Arbitrators shall seek to render the award as soon as reasonably possible.4
- Parties are encouraged to make contact with the arbitral tribunal within 21 days from receipt of written notification of the formation of the arbitral tribunal.5
- Filings can now be made online.6
4. 2016 Rules Set Guidelines for Conduct of Counsel:
The 2016 Rules include an annex with new general conduct guidelines. Included therein are provisions that prohibit, among other things, (i) activities intended to unfairly obstruct the arbitration or to jeopardize the finality of any award, (ii) knowingly making any false statement and (iii) relying on false evidence.7
It is expected that the DIFC-LCIA’s adoption of the 2016 Rules will be viewed as providing an enhanced regime for energy, infrastructure and other disputes with a nexus to the Middle East. While the full impact of the above changes remains uncertain due to their recent publication, taking into account the experience of the LCIA after similar revisions were made to its rules in 2014, parties to arbitration under the 2016 Rules can invoke, and rely upon, new provisions intended to increase efficiency and reduce costs, allow for consolidation of arbitrations, enable appointment of an emergency arbitrator and memorialize expectations concerning conduct of counsel.
1 DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Rules, 2016, Article 9B, available at http://www.difc-lcia.org/arbitration-rules-2016.aspx.
2 See, e.g., Article 2.1, 10.3, 10.5, 10.6, 11.2, 15.2 – 15.5, and 27.1 – 27.4.
3 DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Rules, 2016, Article 5.4, available at http://www.difc-lcia.org/arbitration-rules-2016.aspx.
4 Id. Article 15.10.
5 Id. Article 14.1.
6 See, e.g., Article 1.2, 1.3, 2.2, 2.3, 4.1, 4.3, 4.4, 9.2, 9.5, 9.9, 9.16, 13.3 and 26.7.
7 Id. Annex to the DIFC-LCIA Rules: General Guidelines for the Parties’ Legal Representatives.