Nordic Offshore and Maritime Arbitration – just a new kid on the block?
NOMA – the Nordic Offshore and Maritime Arbitration Association – was launched earlier this year with the aim at providing high-quality, cost-effective and quick dispute resolution as an alternative to the ordinary courts, ad hoc arbitrations as well as London arbitration.
A seed was planted at the Nordic maritime law seminar in Sweden in August 2014: Why cannot the Nordic countries, with their common legal tradition, similarity in contract law and procedural tradition as well as joint maritime acts, cooperate even further and establish a Nordic maritime law arbitration institute as a specialized forum for settling maritime disputes? And the question was asked further; Why should London and English law be used in disputes with no connection to England or London?
Following the planting of this seed, discussion and interest spread in the legal and maritime industry. In 2016 an informal joint committee was formed with participation from both the industry as well as the Maritime Law Associations and major law firms in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The work started and proceeded on a completely voluntary basis, and in April 2018 the NOMA was formally launched with an agreed set of Rules, Best Practice Guidelines and a Case Management Conference Matrix. NOMA is not an arbitration institute as such, but is in effect a set of Rules and Best Practice Guidelines under which ad hoc arbitration can be performed. NOMA as an association consists of a board of high ranking legal practitioners and scholars, including Supreme Court Justices as well as professors and private practice lawyers, whose role is to advise and assist as may be required by the parties in any arbitration conducted according to the NOMA Rules.
The aim of NOMA is to get the best of both worlds – maintaining the flexibility that follows from ad hoc arbitration, whilst at the same time giving the users more predictability by using a set of rules without being bound by the strictness often experienced when using institutionalized arbitration. The purpose is to provide rules and guidelines to a sufficient level of detail to enhance flexible, efficient, reliable and enforceable awards within a specialized field of business: offshore and maritime matters.
Some key features in the NOMA Rules are the requirement for a statement of both independence and impartiality from the arbitrators prior to their appointment, in addition to transparency on the level of fees. Arbitrators’ fees shall be based on time spent on the matter and may be subject to review by the NOMA board. The Case Management Conference Matrix is intended to assist the arbitrators and the parties in enhancing the planning and execution of the process. A general request for “discovery” is normally not allowed. The relevant evidence should be presented by each party and the arbitrators may decide – as may be requested by any of the parties – that further evidence shall be produced. Thus it may be said to be in line with IBA Rules on Taking Evidence, but with a Nordic approach.
Even though the NOMA rules have been developed out of the offshore and maritime legal community, the rules and guidelines on NOMA may however be used within any field of law, and there is no requirement for parties choosing NOMA to have any establishment or business in any of the Nordic countries. The place of arbitration can be in any of the Nordic countries, and the language can be in any of the Nordic languages or English.
NOMA may already be called a success just months after launching. The maritime industries have strongly supported NOMA and the 2019 version of the Nordic Marine Insurance Plan has introduced NOMA as the default solution where the claims leader is non-Nordic and as an option where the claims leader is Nordic. Industry players have also already started using the NOMA standard arbitration clause in their standard contracts.
Time will show whether NOMA is more than a new kid on the block, but so far the future looks bright.