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The trend towards specialisation in the arbitration market

The expansion of the market of international arbitration in the last decades led to a dramatic multiplication in the number of arbitral institutions. Virtually every major trading city in the world has at least one – if not several – institutions which deliver arbitration services. Most of these institutions are affiliated with local chambers of commerce. This makes sense as arbitration hubs are normally located in economic focal points. Most if not all existing arbitration hubs serve as commercial or financial centers as well.

Arbitral institutions can also be divided into generalist and specialist institutions. The former administer the resolution of any form of dispute, while the latter specialise in arbitrations arising from specific types of activities or trade. For instance, there are arbitration centers specifically dedicated to maritime disputes, construction, commodities, or foodstuffs. Normally these institutions operate under the control of national or international professional organisations. The increasing integration of the different worldwide economies into the global market has led to escalating competition between arbitration systems. In principle, competition between arbitral institutions, on the one hand, and venues for the arbitration proceedings, on the other, will benefit users of international arbitration. Parties and their counsel are faced with a strategic choice of venue, with different cities and countries trying to hold themselves out as the best option.

One important aspect that can be witnessed in the last years has to do with a trend towards specialization. New arbitral institutions specialise in certain industries or businesses, hoping to capture a part of the market of arbitration. Two good examples of this have emerged in the last weeks:

 

Shanghai is interested in hosting an international court of arbitration to settle aviation disputes

An agreement was signed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the China Air Transport Association (CATA) and the Shanghai International Arbitration Center (SHIAC). The new institution will be the only organization specialized in disputes that arise in the air transport sector.

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Dubai has set up a maritime arbitration centre, the Emirates Maritime Arbitration Centre

The center will be tasked with settling the disputes emanating from marine trade transactions and is hoped to boost the status of the emirate as a hub of maritime activities in the world.

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