The current outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is causing widespread concern. On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organisation Director-General declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern whilst did not recommend any travel or trade restriction. The WHO and government authorities are actively monitoring the situation (see the latest news).
This article will discuss the potential impact on international arbitration, sales of goods, shipping and shipbuilding contracts.
Potential effects on international arbitration
As the coronavirus situation continues to evolve, parties involved in international arbitrations should pay close attention to the latest updates issued by the relevant arbitration institutions and government authorities. This is because various countries have since implemented measures which restrict/ban entry to visitors who come from or have recently travelled to mainland China.
Depending on the arbitral seat, this could be significant and may have an impact on progress of any arbitration proceedings. Due to such measures, Chinese witnesses may not be allowed entry to counties/regions where hearings are held or to attend hearings in person (as our recent experience shows). This may affect the quality of any evidence given and parties are advised to plan ahead to avoid any delays or risks of infection. Parties could also consider arranging for witnesses to give evidence via video link or agreeing postponement to any hearing date/deadline subject to permission from the tribunal and the applicable arbitral rules.
Below are some of the countries/cities which are considered popular choices of arbitration venues and which have adopted measures to limit the risk of spread of the virus:
Country/City Arbitral Institution Measures London (the UK) The London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) The London Maritime Arbitrators Association (LMAA)
Advanced monitoring at airports with direct flights from China; Some airlines have suspended direct flights to and from mainland China;
A 14-day period of self-isolation is recommended for those who have returned from Hubei Province (or elsewhere in China if showing symptoms);
Hong Kong (China) The Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) All travellers from mainland China entering Hong Kong are required to go into quarantine for 14 days; Partial border closure with mainland China (including suspension of and/or reduced cross-border travel and transport services); Suspension of new visas to individual mainland Chinese tourists;
Singapore The Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) The Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (SCMA)
New visitors who recently travelled to mainland China will be denied entry into or transit through Singapore; Issuance of new visas to PRC passport holders is suspected;
Previously issued short term and multiple visit visas for PRC passport holders are suspended;
Singaporean citizens and permanent residents who recently travelled to mainland China are advised to be placed on a 14-day leave of absence and self-isolation;
Further, SCMA has also adopted precautionary measures for those who recently been to mainland China or displaying symptoms to refrain from attending or visiting in person;
Australia The Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA) Ban entry to people who have recently left or transited through mainland China (except for Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families); All travellers arriving out of mainland China are asked to self-isolate for 14 days;
The US The...