Gregory Nell, SC, Chair, Australian Maritime and Transport Arbitration Commission writes:
2020 will be remembered as the year of COVID-19. From February [last] year, commercial activities in Australia and elsewhere in the world were severely disrupted by both this novel coronavirus and the measures that governments, including the State and Federal Governments of Australia, took to prevent its spread.
International commercial arbitration, including in the shipping sphere, was not immune from that impact.
However, one potentially beneficial consequence of this crisis has been the almost meteoric rise in the use of online platforms such as ZOOM and Microsoft Teams for the conduct of international commercial arbitrations, including final hearings. This has been to a degree that even 12 months ago most experienced practitioners would have thought ambitious and beyond all expectations.
Many of the leading arbitral institutions, including the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA), have very quickly adopted new rules and procedures for the use of such technology and conduct of virtual arbitrations.
As a result of its flexibility and the use of this technology in cross border disputes, commercial arbitration has been especially well placed to ensure that disputes subject to arbitration have continued to be heard and determined almost as usual, despite the pandemic.
This is especially where more traditional means of dispute resolution, such as court hearings, have been deferred or delayed.
Editor’s Note: the above article has been lightly edited.