The language of an arbitration

This note concerns an arbitration under Dutch law between seventeen cargo claimants domiciled outside the Netherlands and two ship owners, one of whom was domiciled in the Netherlands. Failing a choice of language for the arbitration proceedings, a dispute arose between the contesting parties regarding the language of the arbitration. The claimants argued that the language should be Dutch because, amongst other things, the proceedings were in the Netherlands, the applicable law was Dutch law and the arbitrators and the lawyers representing the contesting parties were Dutch. The ship owners argued that English law applied because, amongst other things, the arbitration was an international arbitration between parties most of whom were not domiciled in the Netherlands, the contract under which the dispute arose was in English and the language of correspondence between the parties was English. Furthermore, as the ship owners’ main expert could only speak English, an arbitration in Dutch would represent inequality of arms. The tribunal held that, because the case had no real links with the Dutch language, the language of the arbitration should be English.

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