Bermuda urged to proceed with arbitration centre
MPs will be given an update today on a plan to create an international arbitration centre in Bermuda.
The news came as pressure grew for Bermuda to seize the chance to become a top jurisdiction in the field.
Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands have similar ambitions, and BVI already has an international arbitration centre in operation.
It has been proposed that a Bermuda centre will be built on the site of the now-demolished former Hamilton Police Station on Parliament Street.
A government spokesman said Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, would deliver an update on the planned Ottiwell A. Simmons International Arbitration Centre at today's sitting of the House of Assembly.
Mark Chudleigh, a partner at Kennedys Law, Bermuda, said it was important for Bermuda to move fast.
He added: “It is definitely not too late, but I think the next five years will be key and there is a big advantage in being the first to gain widespread recognition.
“Arguably there is only room for one major centre in the Americas and Bermuda could — if it plays its cards right — dominate the region as Singapore has done in Asia.”
Mr Chudleigh wrote on the subject in the IFC Review 2020, where he highlighted why Bermuda had a strong case for being an offshore leading international arbitration centre for the Americas.
He said: “Bermuda is very well placed to become the dominant regional arbitration centre, the major selling points being its unique geographical location, particularly proximity to London and New York, a modern international arbitration statute that is based on a ‘model law' adopted by 44 other jurisdictions, a pleasant environment, quality hotels and an existing reputation for using international arbitration to resolve insurance and reinsurance contract disputes.”
Mr Chudleigh added there had been talk about the creation of an arbitration centre since he was a law student more than 30 years ago.
He said the island would do well if it joined forces with a recognised international arbitration organisation who could add “immediate credibility and help promote the jurisdiction through their members and wide international influence”.
Others who have spoken on the topic include Michael Hanson, managing partner at Carey Olsen Bermuda, and Sam Stevens, a counsel at the firm, who specialises in the resolution of complex corporate disputes.
They said the Government should “further develop Bermuda as a world-class centre for alternative forms of commercial dispute resolution, in particular arbitration and mediation”.
In May, writing in an opinion piece in The Royal Gazette, the two lawyers said the planned Ottiwell A Simmons International Arbitration Centre “should be completed and modelled on other leading global centres for alternative dispute resolution — most notably Maxwell Chambers in Singapore — to make it commercially viable”.
Mr Chudleigh added a dedicated arbitration facility was essential if Bermuda was to gain credibility as an international arbitration centre, but the island could still strengthen its credentials, even as a venue was constructed.
He said: “Bermuda is already a recognised international arbitration centre and is regularly used as a venue for large insurance arbitrations, which it does very well with the major hotels providing excellent accommodation and hearing facilities.
“There is no reason why the centre could not be established from early next year, initially with a small administrative office and using hotel and other facilities for hearings until the dedicated facility is complete.”
He added spin off benefits would likely include increased visitors and hotel bookings, increased custom for restaurants, taxis and other services, together with local law firms supporting the arbitration process.