The British Coffee Association (BCA) has moved to change the arbitration service as currently functioning within the framework provided by the English Arbitration Act 1996.
It has been traditional for there to be several different national coffee arbitration chambers – both within and beyond Europe. Within this it has been traditional for each chamber to have a panel of arbitrators made up of individuals who reside in the country in which that chamber is based. London arbitration, traditionally, meant UK-based arbitrators – but this has now changed.
- The panel of arbitrators is being expanded.
- New London Arbitration rules have been prepared and came into force on 1st February 2012. The new Arbitration Rules are available on the BCA website.
- An arbitrator training course was held in January 2012 and more will follow as required. All persons who wish to be appointed to the new Panel of Arbitrators – whether or not they are members of the current Panel of Arbitrators – must attend a course, and be registered.
- The new London Arbitration Service, incorporating the new Arbitration Rules and the new Panel of Arbitrators, has been operational since 1st February 2012.
Expansion of the Panel of Arbitrators
Under English law individuals who reside and work outside the UK may sit as arbitrators on English law tribunals. Even if arbitrators need to meet in person (for example, to have a hearing) such meetings do not have to be in the UK – and it may be appropriate to hold such meetings outside the UK. And, of course, it may be appropriate for arbitrations to be conducted without the need for arbitrators to meet in person – with all correspondence between arbitrators being carried out by email and telephone.
All that is required under English law is that the parties have agreed that the legal ‘seat’ of the arbitration is within England and Wales – and this legal requirement is dealt with in the new London Arbitration Rules.
English Law Arbitration
London is, of course, a long-standing centre for arbitrations (and court proceedings) arising out of the physicals and futures trades in both hard and soft commodities. In addition to coffee (BCA), other major soft physicals arbitration centres are based in London:
- Sugar (RSA+SAL)
- Grains (GAFTA)
- Seeds Oils (FOSFA)
- Cocoa (FCC)
English contract law relating to these trades, and the English procedural law which governs arbitration where the legal ‘seat’ is within England and Wales, have been able to develop over a very long period of time. The English statute governing this procedural law is the Arbitration Act 1996. In 1996 the UK government’s advisory committee recommended that there should be a new and improved statute which ‘should be set out in a logical order, and expressed in language which is sufficiently clear and free from technicalities to be readily comprehensible to the layman’. The result was the Arbitration Act 1996 – and this Act governs London arbitration.
General Duty of Arbitrators
The general duty of tribunals is mandatory under the Arbitration Act 1996. Section 33 of the Act reads as follows:
General duty of the tribunal.
- The tribunal shall act fairly and impartially between the parties, giving each party a reasonable opportunity of putting his case and dealing with that of his opponent, and adopt procedures suitable to the circumstances of the particular case, avoiding unnecessary delay or expense, so as to provide a fair means for the resolution of the matters falling to be determined.
- The tribunal shall comply with that general duty in conducting the arbitral proceedings, in its decisions on matters of procedure and evidence and in the exercise of all other powers conferred on it.
Impartiality is therefore a legal requirement for all arbitrators.
Eligibility to be considered for appointment to the new Panel of Arbitrators
Applications for appointment to the new Panel of Arbitrators will be considered by the Arbitration and Contracts Committee with the final endorsement on appointment being made by the BCA’s Management Board.
To be considered for appointment all applicants must meet certain basic criteria – and meeting these criteria will be an on-going requirement for all arbitrators:
- All applicants must be currently active in the physical green coffee trade/industry.
- All applicants must have a minimum of five years’ relevant consecutive activity in the physical green coffee trade/industry.
- All applicants must display competency in the English language; this is a practical commercial requirement.
- All applicants must have attended a London Arbitrator Training Course prior to appointment to the new Panel of Arbitrators.
Persons who wish to be appointed to the new Panel of Arbitrators, and who are not members of the current Panel of Arbitrators, are invited to submit an application for appointment to the Panel.
Please download and complete a copy of the Application Form.
All applications should be accompanied by a resumé of the applicant’s relevant experience in the green coffee trade/industry. Applicants must indicate their willingness to attend a London Arbitrator Training Course. The cost of attendance on this course will be £350. Applications may be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax to +44 1608 644996.
All arbitrators appointed to the new Panel of Arbitrators who are not employed by a Member of the BCA will be required to pay a sum of £250 per year for that appointment.
All details will be available from the BCA. Please direct any enquiries to email@example.com.
Note of thanks
We wish to thank members of the BCA’s external Arbitration Working Group which included:
- Armajaro Coffee
- ECOM Agroindustrial Corp
- Louis Dreyfus Commodities Suisse
For information on the Arbitration Act please follow this link to the UK Arbitration Act 1996.
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