Leading offshore arbitration centre announces more eco-friendly rules

Measures including provisions for remote hearings feature in BVI International Arbitration Centre's 2021 rules update
ROADTOWN - TORTOLA - BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS 6TH SEPTEMBER 2018:The town center and marinas exactly one year after the hurricane Irma.

Road Town, the BVI's capital, is situated on the largest island, Tortola Frank Lervik; Shutterstock

The British Virgin Islands International Arbitration Centre (BVI IAC) has launched the latest version of its arbitration rules, which include new measures aimed at boosting sustainability.

The updated rules, which were showcased at BVI Arbitration Week earlier this month, came into force on 16 November.

BVI IAC chair John Beechey said the reforms were part of a comprehensive process to ensure the offshore financial centre’s regime reflected international arbitration best practices.

“[They] include new provisions for emergency arbitrator proceedings, expedited procedures, tribunal secretaries, joinder and consolidation,” he added. “They reflect the centre’s commitment to standardise the adoption of environment-friendly measures in arbitration and include provisions for the use of remote hearing platforms and electronic filing of submissions.”

The new rules, a growing roster of arbitrators, and purpose-built facilities meant the BVA IAC would “offer its users a level of service which is second to none”, he concluded. 

The updates reflect pandemic-era best practice, in taking user feedback into account, with many arbitral centres having adopted hybrid or virtual hearing platforms.  They also mirror best practice at the ICC Court of Arbitration, Beechey’s former employer, and the London Court of International Arbitration. 

Drafted by leading independent arbitrators, including Fountain Court’s Christine Artero, Delos Dispute Resolution Services’ Thomas Granier, and Victor Bonnin Reynes, together with BVI IAC Registrar, Hana Doumal, the rules reflect the BVI's statis as one of the largest corporate domiciles globally. 

The views of Asian, and particularly, Chinese parties – for whom the use of BVI trusts and corporate holding structures are popular - were captured by former HKIAC secretary-general, Chiann Bao, and Withers’ Hong Kong partner Sherlin Tung. 

Tung, who joined Withers last year from CMS Hasche Sigle, said: “It was necessary to add express provisions to address the concepts of joinder, consolidation as well as single arbitration under multiple contracts given the increase in multi-party and multi-contract disputes. 

“By including these provisions in the rules, it gives parties clear guidance as to how to handle such types of arbitrations,” she added, with changes based on user experience of such disputes.  

The environment-focused changes, meanwhile, reflect calls for action from the arbitral community and are in line with the Campaign for Greener Arbitrations' Green Pledge. The Pledge is an initiative launched by independent arbitrator Lucy Greenwood in 2019 to reduce the carbon footprint of the arbitration community and currently counts UK magic circle firms Allen & Overy, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters among its list of backers. 

The topic was discussed during BVI Arbitration Week in a session that featured Wendy Miles QC, co-founder of the Net Zero Lawyers Association. along with Notre Dame professor Diane Desierto, Peking University’s Stephen Minas, and New York-based Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer client relationship advisor Olivier Andre, who chairs the Green Pledge’s North America Committee.  

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