Introduction Alternative dispute resolution (ADR); includes dispute resolution processes and techniques that act as a means for disagreeing parties to come to an agreement or resolution of their disputes, short of litigation in Court. It is a collective term to describe the ways that parties can settle disputes, with (or without) the help of a third party  . Three commonly used ADR mechanisms for commercial and construction disputes are Arbitration, Mediation and Adjudication.
The use of ADR is on the upward trend in Singapore. In 2016, the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC), dealt with the highest number of mediations in its 20-year history. It handled 499 cases in 2016 with a total quantum of disputed sum of $775 million . On the arbitration front, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) posted stellar figures with 271 cases filed in 2015 at a total dispute quantum of $6.23 billion .
Adjudication (which is only specific to disputes under construction contracts) is believed to have also seen a record number of around 500 cases lodged in 2016.
This article provides a brief overview of Arbitration, Mediation and Adjudication in Singapore.
Arbitration Arbitration is a consensual process where parties agree to appoint an arbitrator to adjudicate their disputes. The agreement to arbitrate is usually found in an arbitration clause contained in a contract signed by the parties. Most construction contracts include an arbitration clause.
Parties are free to select the arbitrator, who should ideally be a person familiar with the area of industry that is the subject of dispute. For example, a senior quantity surveyor can be appointed as the arbitrator for a dispute over the value of variation works under a construction contract.
Parties are also at liberty to select the procedural rules governing the arbitration.
There are two types of arbitrations – ad hoc arbitrations and institutional arbitrations. Institutional arbitrations are those governed by the rules of established arbitral institutions such as the SIAC , the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators  or the International Court of Arbitration  while ad hoc arbitrations are not subject to such rules.
Decisions made by the arbitrator (called arbitration awards) are binding on the parties and are enforceable by the Singapore Courts as judgments of the Court. Arbitration awards made in Singapore are recognized internationally by countries who are signatories to the Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (Also known as the “New York Arbitration Convention”) .
Parties who are dissatisfied with an arbitration award may appeal to the Courts  or apply to set it aside . However, this can only take place under limited circumstances.
Mediation Mediation is a process where disputants agree to negotiate and try to arrive a settlement of their disputes with the help a neutral third party mediator.
Mediation is similar to arbitration in that both parties must agree to use it as a means of dispute resolution. Mediation may be carried out under the auspices of the SMC  or the State Courts Centre for Dispute Resolution (if there is a pending civil litigation in the State Courts) .
Parties may agree on a mediator failing which the mediator will be appointed by the SMC or the State Courts.
A mediator’s role is to help the parties come together and open a dialogue to negotiate and/or settle their dispute. The mediator cannot make any binding decisions or adjudicate on the merits of the dispute.
Mediations are without prejudice. Matters discussed and raised in mediation cannot be tendered as evidence in Court if the mediation fails.
If the mediation is successful, parties will enter into a binding settlement agreement to record the terms of settlement.
Adjudication is a statutory dispute resolution process specifically tailored for progress payment disputes in construction contracts. It is provided by the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act (Cap 30B) (“SOP Act”) with the purpose easing cash flow in construction projects.
Adjudication is available to a party (Claimant) who has carried out construction woks and has not received payment. The process is engaged by the lodgement of an adjudication application with the SMC. The dispute will heard and decided by an adjudicator appointed by the SMC .
The adjudicator’s decision (called the Adjudication Determination) is temporarily binding on the parties  and only resolves the dispute on a single progress payment. Any other types of disputes, such as disputes relating to defects or delays, must be dealt with elsewhere such as via arbitration or mediation.
There is no right of appeal to Court. The Court may however may set aside an adjudication determination if there has been procedural impropriety (e.g. breach of natural justice) or illegality (e.g. fraud) 
A claimant who has not received payment of the adjudicated amount has several options to enforce the adjudication determination such as converting the adjudication determination into a judgment of the Court; suspending work and seeking direct payment from the principal of the respondent . Additionally, under some circumstances, the claimant may claim a lien over the goods supplied .
Concluding Remarks ADR should be seriously considered as a viable alternative to litigation in the Courts. The use of ADR is expected to increase with the recent amendment  of the Civil Law Act to allow third party funding and the upcoming Mediation Act which strengthens the legal framework for mediation in Singapore .
Nevertheless, there are many factors to consider when determining the ideal mode of dispute resolution including, but not limited to: the nature of the dispute; the cost of resolving the matter; the amount of time it will take; and whether there is an business relationship that should or could be salvaged. Its best to seek proper legal advice before deciding on the mode of ADR to be deployed.
Tan Joo Seng E : firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_dispute_resolution 2. Straits Times, 27 Jan 2017 at http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singapore-mediation-centre-handles-record-number-of-cases-in-2016-72-per-cent-more-than. 3. http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singapore-international-arbitration-centre-appoints-davinder-singh-as-new-chairman. 4. http://www.siac.org.sg 5. http://www.siarb.org.sg 6. http://www.iccwbo.org 7. http://www.newyorkconvention.org/ 8. Section 48 of the Arbitration Act (Cap 10) and 9. Section 49 of the Arbitration Act (Cap 10) and section 24 of the International Arbitration Act (Cap 143A) 10. http://www.mediation.org.sg 11. https://www.statecourts.gov.sg/Mediation_ADR/Pages/An-Overview%20of%20Mediation.aspx 12. http://www.mediation.org.sg 13. Section 21 of the SOP Act. 14. Citiwall Safety Glass Pte Ltd v Mansource Interior Pte Ltd  SGCA 42 15. Part V of the SOP Act. 16. Section 25 of the SOP Act. 17. http://www.straitstimes.com/politics/spores-status-as-legal-hub-boosted-by-changes-to-law 18. https://www.mlaw.gov.sg/content/minlaw/en/news/public-consultations/public-consultation-on-the-draft-mediation-bill.html