English arbitrations: how do they operate during pandemics?
The issue of English arbitration institution effective functioning is vital both for Interlegal clients and for lawyers of Interlegal English Law department.
Such arbitration associations ad LMAA as GAFTA (we regularly represent our clients’ interests therein) promptly responded to the current situation and are still working in strict compliance with safety measures.
GAFTA (Grain and Feed Trade Association) office is working remotely now, but the arbitration itself still functioning. There are few restrictions on proceedings, since remote case considerations took place even before, based on documents submitted by the parties. During the pandemics, the Association is not accepting applications on the merits and evidence in hard copies: now claims, objections and statements of defense shall be filed in soft copies only. As for virtual hearings, GAFTA is not creating virtual spaces deliberately, although such issue is under consideration. Awards shall have electronic signatures, but it does not affect their validity. Awards shall be issued in soft copies, while original counterparts will be provided at the request, as soon as GAFTA office will get opened again. A similar approach is observed in arbitrations LCIA and FOSFA.
LMAA arbitrators are still considering cases by means of virtual spaces developed jointly with the International Dispute Resolution Centre (IDRC) and Opus 2. Ian Gaunt, LMAA President, reports that, based on examples of recent case proceedings, it is quite possible (and even cheaper) to give online witness testimony by means of videoconference, staying at their own location and providing documents in soft copies. Both attorneys and arbitrators may also participate in hearing, using remote technologies effectively. Case consideration on the grounds of standard documents only shall be held in the standard procedural manner.
English Commercial Court also has similar opportunities for case consideration mostly by phone or by means of virtual hearing. Commercial courts show that the Parties should strive to act in such way, without postponing case consideration, unless it is absolutely necessary.
Today, research and testing such methods and technologies for remote hearing may increase efficiency of international case proceedings in future, having a positive impact non only on budget costs of the parties to the dispute but also on global economic situation, due absence of the need in physical attendance of court and arbitration hearings.
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