This article was originally published in Practical Law Arbitration. Reproduced with permission. This article is co-written by Reed Smith Pte Ltd and Resource law LLC who together form the Reed Smith Resource Law Alliance in Singapore. Reed Smith LLP is licensed to operate as a foreign law practice in Singapore under the name and style, Reed Smith Pte Ltd (hereafter collectively, “Reed Smith”). Where advice on Singapore law is required, we will refer the matter to and work with Reed Smith’s Formal Law Alliance partner in Singapore, Resource Law LLC, where necessary.
In ST Group Co Ltd and others v Sanum Investments Limited and another appeal  SGCA 65, the Singapore Court of Appeal refused an application for leave to enforce an international arbitration award on the grounds that the seat of the arbitration was not in accordance with the choice of the parties.
* Kohe Hasan is a Partner in Reed Smith's Singapore office and a Director of Resource Law LLC. Nikisha Mirpuri is an Associate in Reed Smith's Singapore office.
The Singapore Court of Appeal has refused an application for leave to enforce an international arbitration award on the grounds that the seat of the arbitration was not in accordance with the choice of the parties.
This rare decision by the Singapore courts to refuse enforcement reflects the importance of party autonomy and, in particular, the importance of the choice of seat in international arbitration. It is also notable that the court held that prejudice does not need to be shown by the party resisting enforcement where the wrong choice of seat is concerned.
Parties be sure to clearly select a choice of seat in their arbitration agreements to prevent such an outcome. Further, parties and their counsel should ensure that they commence arbitration by reference to the correct seat to avoid later issues with enforcement. The consequences of not doing so can be particularly costly in the case of non-participating counterparties, who may choose not to engage in the arbitration without waiving their rights to oppose enforcement or seek to set aside an award at a later stage. (ST Group Co Ltd and others v Sanum Investments Limited and another appeal  SGCA 65.)