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BVI passes Arbitration Act

On 17 December 2013, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) legislature passed the Arbitration Act 2013 (the ‘Act’), which came into force on 23 January 2014. It is a modern and long-awaited statute, which will transition BVI’s already modern litigation tools yet further to serve the needs of its international clients.

The Act repeals and replaces the previous Arbitration Act, which had remained unamended since its passing in 1976. Its object is expressly to facilitate and obtain a fair and expeditious resolution of disputes by arbitration without unnecessary delay or expense. The highlight of the Act is that it specifically recognises and adopts the Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (the ‘Model Law’), subject to a number of modifications and useful supplements within the Act itself. The adoption of the Model Law is significant primarily because it will now permit the enforceability of BVI arbitral awards in the 158 convention states, a noteworthy deficiency in the previous Act. Notable derogations from the Model Law include section 14, which in so far as it concerns the conduct of arbitral proceedings provides that parties be given a ‘reasonable’ as opposed to a ‘full’ opportunity to present their case. Further, article 17H of the Model Law (which provides that an interim measure shall be recognised as binding) has been substituted by section 59 of the Act, which states than an interim measure may only be enforced by leave of the court and expressly omits to mention the binding nature of same. Leave to enforce an order or direction made outside the Virgin Islands will not be granted unless the party seeking to enforce the order or direction can demonstrate that it belongs to a type or description of an order or direction that can be made in the BVI in relation to arbitral proceedings by an arbitral tribunal…

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