Arbitration and the Judiciary in the Netherlands at the International Congress of Maritime Arbitrators, paper presented by Marc Padberg

Between 8 – 13 March 2020, the International Congress of Maritime Arbitrators (ICMA) held its 21st Congress in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Congress is a forum for maritime arbitrators, lawyers and the shipping industry to exchange views and news relevant in the industry and aims to promote maritime arbitration around the world.

With the ICMA being one of the most important events for maritime and commercial arbitrators, Kneppelhout’s managing partner Marc Padberg had the opportunity to present his paper on Arbitration and the Judiciary in the Netherlands at the Congress.

Although being a small country, the Netherlands is known for being the home of the maritime capital of Europe, Rotterdam and the legal capital of the world, the Hague. With the Netherlands position as an attractive hub for international trade, it is no surprise that international disputes regularly arrive before arbitral tribunals and often also before the Dutch Courts. For this reason the Dutch judiciary has accommodated the international nature of many disputes by creating the Netherlands Commercial Court (NCC) in 2019 as a part of the Amsterdam. Proceedings before the NCC are conducted in English and its judgments are similarly delivered in English. The NCC follows the earlier steps of the Rotterdam District Court’s Maritime Chamber. Since 2017, the Chamber has offered the possibility to also conduct proceedings in international trade, maritime or transport-related disputes in English. The highly specialized Chamber has almost exclusive jurisdiction in maritime disputes, which often have an international nexus. The possibility to conduct proceedings in English first came in recognition of the many international maritime and trade disputes that continue to arrive before the Rotterdam Court.

The English language accommodation of international disputes within the Dutch judiciary does not only benefit litigation in international disputes going through the channels of the Courts, but also supports international disputes resolved through arbitration. The Netherlands has several national and international arbitration institutes, including the specialized arbitration and mediation institute for transport and maritime-related disputes UNUM, formerly known as TAMARA. The accommodation of international disputes, whether through arbitration or litigation is also a key feature of the revisions to the Dutch Arbitration Act (DAA) in 2015. In his paper as well as his presentation at the Congress, Marc Padberg discussed the changes to the DAA aimed at strengthening party-autonomy, accommodating international disputes and enhancing the cooperation between tribunals and courts.

Moreover, the cooperation and interaction between arbitration and litigation is an important feature of the DAA, supporting the already arbitration-friendly environment in the Netherlands. This is particularly evidenced by the limitations of judicial interference and review on the one hand and the effective court assistance and enforcement of awards on the other hand.

The Congress was a unique opportunity to share and discuss with colleagues from all over the world the Dutch experiences and views on arbitration and litigation – both in general, but especially in relation to maritime-related matters.

Rotterdam was not only represented by Marc Padberg, but also the chairman of UNUM, Marcel Verhagen, of DOCK Legal Experts was present. Although Rotterdam has not yet hosted the ICMA, it is UNUM’s intention to host  this important event in the international maritime arbitration community. In Rio de Janeiro UNUM has with the support of Marc Padberg, the NVV and the RMSC clearly exposed its interest in organizing ICMA XXIII. Apart from supporting the bid, the RMSC and Rotterdam Partners were actively involved with creating a proper bidbook.