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SCC Spotlight Talk: Georgios Petrochilos

We talk to Georgios Petrochilos KC, Partner at Three Crowns LLP, about how to best handle emergency arbitrations. Drawing on his wealth of experience, he provides valuable insights into the nuances of the process, offering practical advice and considerations for both arbitrators and parties involved in these critical situations.

Published 2023-11-08

SCC Spotlight Talk

In the interview series The SCC Spotlight Talk, SCC meets practitioners to discuss current issues, challenges, and opportunities in commercial dispute resolution of today.

Emergency arbitrations have the same procedure as traditional arbitration, but much faster. Once the arbitrator is appointed, they have five days to decide the case. The decision or award rendered is not enforceable, but it is binding. The main value of emergency arbitration is to temporarily maintain the status quo and to ensure that the parties’ claims are protected while the despite is pending in arbitration. SCC introduced this service, now adopted by various institutes.

Georgios, you are an experienced emergency arbitrator, what would you say are the main challenges that come with the appointment?

– Time, above all. The five-day deadline is short by the standards of all arbitral institutions. Meeting it requires an ability and willingness to clear one’s schedule and run the process as a five-day, full-time project. It requires procedural confidence in devising an appropriate briefing schedule and procedure generally but also to have decision-making confidence, especially in identifying which issues must be decided and which must not (or may not), and the intellectual discipline of setting out one’s decision in terms that are clearly structured and articulated but compact. Comprehensiveness does not equal prolixity.

What would you say are the appeal and benefits for the parties to use emergency arbitrations?

– The success of the concept is as undeniable as it is well-merited. It is important that arbitral tribunals be constituted with all due deliberation and transparency, and these take time. Yet the period before a tribunal has been fully constituted – and when an Emergency Arbitrator has a role to play – is in fact the period when interim protection may be needed most, to preserve the status quo, block actions that risk pre-empting the resolution of the dispute, etc. National courts, by contrast, may not be neutrally situated concerning the litigants, and less well-placed than an arbitral forum to assess the need for interim protection or to order measures that are appropriate/sufficient in the circumstances. While Emergency Arbitrators can go beyond orders “holding the ring” or preserving the status quo, their decisions are subject to revision by the full tribunal, which will have a broader and deeper understanding of the case. That check is an attractive feature of the Emergency Arbitrator system. 

Any advice for an arbitrator to accept a first appointment as an Emergency Arbitrator?

– Jump at the opportunity – as indeed I did, accepting my first appointment late in the afternoon of a New Year’s Eve. And handle the process as a collaborative effort: the parties have a duty of procedural good faith, counsel are your allies in assisting you, and you will be best served by helping counsel identify what evidence and submissions are needed.

Don't miss the SCC Practice Note about Emergency Arbitrator Decisions.

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