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*International Arbitration

Published on August 31st, 2017 | by Olga Papadopoulou

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ICC Moves Offshore: Clash of the Titans?

Kluwer Arbitration Blog

ICC Moves Offshore: Clash of the Titans?

Gordon Blanke (DWF (Middle East) LLP)/August 11, 2017

According to a recent announcement, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Court of Arbitration is set to open a representative office in the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), a free zone founded by the Ruler of Abu Dhabi on Al Maryah Island, a man-made island on the shores of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. I have extensively reported on the ADGM as a seat of arbitration on Kluwer Blog previously (see G. Blanke, “Arbitration in the Abu Dhabi Global Market: Ready, Steady, Go …!”, Kluwer Arbitration Blog, 7 February 2016 ; and G. Blanke, “Arbitrating in the ADGM: Some further thoughts and considerations”, Kluwer Arbitration Blog, 10 March 2016) ,and do not intend to belabour the subject unnecessarily here. Suffice it to recall that the ADGM is a free zone common law jurisdiction with its own stand-alone arbitration law, the 2015 ADGM Arbitration Regulations, which are modeled on the UNCITRAL Model Law. Arbitrations seated in the ADGM will be governed by the Regulations and given their UNCITRAL pedigree benefit from best standard international arbitration procedure.

The establishment of the ICC in the ADGM will add to arbitrations in the ADGM an endemic institutional dimension that will promote a choice for the administration of ADGM-seated arbitration under the ICC Rules of Arbitration. This, no doubt, marks a smart strategic move for the ICC that in free zone arbitration had lost ground to the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), its long-time rival, which was the first to set up as a free zone arbitration centre in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) about nine years ago. Regular followers of this Blog will know that the DIFC is the first common law jurisdiction established on the free zone model in the UAE. The DIFC-LCIA has since become the best-known free-zone arbitration centre internationally, soon registering in excess of 100 cases (beating the Qatar International Financial Centre and its home-grown arbitration centre to it). Taking account of the novelty of the concept of free zone arbitration and the lead-time for any disputes to originate from DIFC-LCIA arbitration clauses, this is no mean feat. Going forward, the DIFC-LCIA’s case portfolio looks to grow, conservatively speaking, by an average 30 to 50 references annually…

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