David Bateson is “a very experienced and excellent arbitrator for construction matters” and other high-value cases, and has acted in over 150 arbitrations around the globe under ICC, HKIAC, DIAC and SIAC rules, among others.
David Bateson is a leading international arbitrator who has been involved in over 150 arbitrations in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America. He has acted as chairman, party-appointed arbitrator or sole arbitrator in arbitrations under the rules of the AAA, AI, BANI, CIETAC, HKIAC, ICC, KLRCA, LCIA, PCA, SIAC and VIAC, or in ad hoc arbitrations. He has extensive experience in disputes in a variety of industry sectors including construction, resources, commodities, insurance, joint ventures, shareholder agreements, shipping and telecommunications.
Why did you decide to join 39 Essex Chambers as an arbitrator?
After 35 years’ practice in Hong Kong and Asia with an international law firm, it was time to change my career, and concentrate on acting as arbitrator. And 39 Essex Chambers provided the best platform, since they were a highly regarded chambers and committed to Asia.
How does your work as arbitrator differ from your previous roles in private practice?
There is a significant difference. I am self-employed and do not have to worry about keeping other lawyers busy, or management. Further, I do not have to keep clients happy, which was stressful at the best of times. Also, I am travelling more to different jurisdictions.
As an arbitrator, you sit throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe. How does the character of arbitrations vary in different jurisdictions?
International arbitration in both common and civil law jurisdictions has seen a significant degree of harmonisation in recent times. However, civil law-based jurisdictions still prefer to rely on the written record, not witness testimony or expert evidence. The procedures of institutions worldwide, or in ad hoc arbitrations, are very similar, but there are different laws or procedures in countries that need to be observed. For example, in the Middle East every page of the award needs signing; and in India there is a strict time limit to finish proceedings, and a recent law means it is not possible to sit in India as a foreign arbitrator.
Another difference is the approach to giving evidence. Asian witnesses often tend to try to avoid confrontation or unequivocal answers, and smile in difficult moments. Western witnesses do not lack confidence but can appear coached, and smiling is regarded as odd or unbalanced. Arbitrators need to be culturally sensitive and give the benefit of doubt where appropriate.
In your opinion, why has there been an increase in construction arbitration but a decrease in oil and gas arbitration?
There has been massive spending on infrastructure projects worldwide, but particularly in developing countries. These projects provide the needed roads, bridges, power, waste disposal and housing for countries. These are supported by multilateral lending agencies. This has resulted in a large amount of disputes.
On the other hand, oil and gas projects have been adversely affected by the recession in this area. The demand for green and renewable energy has also contributed to this decline.
What are the reasons for Singapore’s considerable success as a seat of arbitration?
Singapore has an arbitration-friendly judiciary with a great track record for enforcing awards; progressive laws dealing with arbitration; excellent facilities at Maxwell Chambers; and a body of quality arbitrators based in Singapore. It is also a safe and neutral place to do business in.
Do you envisage the emergence of any new arbitration seats that will rival those currently most popular?
Singapore and Hong Kong will remain the most popular seats in the immediate future, although the recent strike in Hong Kong will have a negative effect. In the 2018 Queen Mary survey on international arbitration, Singapore was ranked as the third most popular seat, with Hong Kong fourth.
The AIAC in Kuala Lumpur, and the SIDRC in Seoul, will become more popular.
How would you like to develop your practice in the near future?
I will continue to concentrate on construction/energy disputes, but expand appointments in shareholder and joint-venture shipping disputes, and other areas.
Technology will increase efficiency, and I need to move with the times. I hope lawyers on cases will be more collaborative as opposed to adversarial.
In your opinion, where does the future of arbitration lie post-covid-19? Can virtual hearings be relied upon to decide high-stakes multibillion-dollar cases between parties?
In the wake of covid-19, in-person hearings have not been possible, and have been replaced by virtual hearings, or re-scheduled to next year. Virtual hearings present multiple challenges and risks, but have evolved very successfully, and are attractive in time efficiency and costs. There are a number of soft law instruments on video-conferencing, and technological tools to conduct virtual hearings, plus many arbitration centres offer technological platforms.
Virtual hearings can decide large and complex disputes, and are here to stay. But, in-person hearings will continue in the future, to some extent.
Post-pandemic, it is anticipated there will be a surge in arbitrations.
“David is a standout arbitrator who has an excellent reputation"
"He is very good at issuing well-reasoned awards timeously”
“He is excellent and very experienced - a pure construction practitioner”
David Bateson is a leading international arbitrator who has been involved as arbitrator in over 150 arbitrations in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America. He has acted as chairman, party-appointed arbitrator and sole arbitrator in arbitrations under the rules of the AAA, AIAC, BANI, CIETAC, HKIAC, DIAC, ICC, LCIA, PCA, SIAC and VIAC, or in ad hoc arbitrations.
He has extensive experience in disputes in a variety of industry sectors including, construction, resources, commodities, insurance, joint ventures, shareholder agreements, shipping and telecommunications.
Chambers Asia described him as “pre-eminent and widely experienced”; “one of the top arbitrators in the region” who is “excellent at pretty much everything he is doing”. The Legal 500: Asia Pacific stated that David is “one of the top arbitrators in the region”.
Chambers Asia also described him as “a very good arbitrator” and praises him for “writing a very good award”. It adds that he is “well able to control an arbitration” and “culturally sensitive”. He is listed in Chambers’ list of most in-demand arbitrators for Asia, who describe him as a "very popular and in-demand arbitrator for construction cases". He is in Band 1 of Chambers' list of in-demand arbitrators – Singapore.
He has over 40 years of legal experience and is a specialist in all forms of dispute resolution including arbitration, litigation and alternative dispute resolution. He has been resident in Asia since 1980 and is now based in Singapore.