Keynote Address by Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Law and Ministry of Finance, at the Ground-Breaking of 28 Maxwell Road
22 Jun 2017 Posted in Speeches
Mr Philip Jeyaretnam S.C., Chairman, Maxwell Chambers
I am delighted to see so many members of Singapore’s dispute resolution community here today, for the ground-breaking of 28 Maxwell Road.
As everyone here knows, the Ministry of Law is refurbishing the conserved heritage building at 28 Maxwell Road. Let me say a few words about why we are doing this, and why it is significant.
Expanding Maxwell Chambers
In 2010, the Ministry of Law set up Maxwell Chambers, the world’s first integrated dispute resolution complex. It houses custom-designed hearing facilities, as well as top dispute resolution institutions and arbitration chambers.
- Maxwell Chambers has done well over the years.
- The measure of its success can be seen in how quickly it was emulated by others.
- The numbers tell the same story. Today, Maxwell Chambers is the second most preferred hearing centre in the world. In 2016, 212 arbitration cases were heard at Maxwell Chambers, an 18 per cent increase from 179 cases in 2015.
I would like to take this opportunity to express the Ministry’s deepest appreciation to Philip and the Board members for steering Maxwell Chambers and putting it on the world map within six short years.
With Maxwell’s stellar reputation and growing demand for dispute resolution services in Asia, it should come as no surprise that we are seeing strong demand for space at Maxwell Chambers.
- The Ministry of Law is therefore refurbishing 28 Maxwell Road to expand Maxwell Chambers.
- When completed, the new building will add over 120,000 square feet of floor space to Maxwell Chambers, and triple its current size.
- Maxwell Chambers can then provide, at 28 Maxwell Road, four floors of premium modern offices to cater to dispute resolution institutions, arbitration chambers, law firms, and other ancillary service providers, and dedicate its current premises fully to hearing facilities.
- An overhead link-bridge will be constructed to provide seamless access between hearing rooms and offices.
The refurbishment work will be led by Mr Mok Wei Wei, the award-winning managing director of W Architects. Wei Wei’s projects have won international acclaim. They include iconic buildings like Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, the National Museum of Singapore, and the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. I am confident that Wei Wei will deliver a building that fuses modern-day comforts with the unique heritage of 28 Maxwell Road. No pressure, Wei Wei.
Maxwell Chambers and Tanjong Pagar
The restored building will not only be spectacular; it will also play an important part in the transformation of Tanjong Pagar. Here is a sneak preview of what you can expect to see in the area around Maxwell Chambers in the near future.
As you know, Maxwell Chambers and 28 Maxwell Road are located in the heart of the city, in the Tanjong Pagar area.
Tanjong Pagar is the southern gateway to Singapore’s core Central Business District (CBD). There are exciting plans to transform Tanjong Pagar into a vibrant, high density mixed-used district with a live-in population in the city centre.
First, transport. Today, Tanjong Pagar is already served by Tanjong Pagar MRT station. This is right outside Maxwell Chambers.
With the expansion of our rail network, Tanjong Pagar will become even more accessible. By 2021, Tanjong Pagar will have two new stations on the Thomson-East Coast Line: the Maxwell and Shenton Way stations.
Maxwell Chambers will then be served by three MRT stations, and all within a 7-minute walk. So, if you do not wish to drive, you can easily take the MRT to Maxwell Chambers, for hearings or to come to office, if you take up tenancy here.
Second, history and culture. Besides accessibility, Tanjong Pagar is also a wonderful melting pot that merges the old and the new. Situated between the Chinatown historic district and the CBD, the area is home to top-end hotels and restaurants in Singapore, as well as quirky, eclectic food and lifestyle options.
Over the last decade, the historic district with its conserved shophouses has evolved from a predominantly residential area to one that supports a vibrant and growing F&B sector.
Here in Tanjong Pagar, you can find everything from delicious Singapore hawker food to fine Italian cuisine, with Michelin-starred options in both categories. I hope that you will find time to enjoy these offerings after a hard day’s work.
Third, public connections. A key part in Tanjong Pagar’s transformation is improving connections between the conserved shophouses, residential and office areas, through green spaces, public spaces and pedestrian networks.
In this regard, our refurbishment of 28 Maxwell Road presents an opportunity to improve the pedestrian connection in this area. As you can see on this slide, the 161 metre-long building at 28 Maxwell Road currently separates Maxwell Road from the Tanjong Pagar MRT area.
When we refurbish 28 Maxwell Road, we will take the opportunity to create a new 24-hour public thoroughfare in the middle of the building. This public thoroughfare will enhance the pedestrian network in the area and better link Maxwell Road and the upcoming Maxwell MRT station with the Tanjong Pagar MRT station.
In summary, Maxwell Chambers is expanding alongside a wave of other new projects and redevelopments, as part of Tanjong Pagar’s transformation. When completed, these developments together will create 300,000 square metres of office space, 60,000 square metres of retail and F&B offerings, 1,200 hotel rooms and more than a thousand homes. Maxwell Chambers will be at the heart of this very exciting area in the city centre, after this significant transformation.
Maxwell Chambers Suites
28 Maxwell Road will remain a prominent landmark in Tanjong Pagar after its transformation. However, it needs a new name to reflect its new role and function, as an integral part of Singapore’s dispute resolution ecosystem. With immediate effect, 28 Maxwell Road will no longer be called Red Dot Traffic building. It will be renamed Maxwell Chambers Suites.
- I am happy to announce today that Maxwell Chambers Suites is already 65 per cent booked, even before the construction begins.
- Current tenants are expanding to better meet the growing demand for their dispute resolution services. For example, The Arbitration Chambers, headed by Singapore’s own Professor Lawrence Boo, and One Essex Court, a leading set of London barristers, are more than doubling their office space.
- New players are also seeking to establish a presence at Maxwell Chambers, and in Singapore. These include both local and international institutions, chambers, dispute resolution practitioners and related legal support services. For the first time, Maxwell Chambers will house an ancillary services firm – Opus 2, an international firm that specialises in transcription and hearing room services. With these additions, Maxwell Chambers will house an even wider range of service providers and strengthen its position as a hub for dispute resolution services.
To cater to this strong demand, I am also pleased to announce today that we will construct a new second annexe block at Maxwell Chambers Suites. This will add another 3,500 square feet of office space, over and above what we had earlier planned and announced.
Taking Dispute Resolution in Singapore to the Next Level
Maxwell Chambers’ aggressive expansion is testament to Singapore’s strong growth as an international hub for dispute resolution. Our vision for Maxwell Chambers is to be a base in Asia for all major players, from which they can access and capture opportunities in the region. This is part of our larger plan to take dispute resolution in Singapore to the next level over the next decade.
Today, Singapore is already one of the top five most preferred seats of arbitration in the world, alongside London, Paris, Geneva and Hong Kong. There is a window of opportunity for us to do more, and to do even better. Let me give you two reasons why.
- First, Singapore has a trusted legal system that delivers high quality jurisprudence and is neutral and stable.
- This is why businesses who plan long-term choose Singapore as the seat of arbitration in their business contracts, even those that have no connection whatsoever with Singapore. This is because they know that if and when disputes arise, be it 5, 10 or 15 years later, Singapore will be Singapore: trusted, consistent and reliable in its approach, delivering the same high-quality jurisprudence as it does now, if not better.
- More businesses will come to appreciate the trust, neutrality and stability that Singapore offers, as they command an even higher premium in an increasingly uncertain world. What we offer is intrinsically linked to our system of governance. It cannot be created overnight and it is not easily replicated.
- Second, the Singapore Government is fully committed to the country’s continued economic growth and prosperity. That is why we are focused and determined in our pursuit of developing the dispute resolution sector. Our efforts are concerted and sustained over many years.
- We proactively review legislation to make sure that it stays up-to-date, and supports businesses. For example, we recently amended legislation to introduce a framework for third-party funding, and introduced a new legislative framework to strengthen the enforceability of mediated settlements.
- We have also built up high-quality institutions, capable of sustained long-term growth. We now offer a complete suite of dispute resolution services namely –
- Arbitration, through the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC);
- Mediation, through the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC); and
- Litigation, through the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC). SIAC in particular has seen its caseload quadruple in the last decade. In 2016, it achieved a record 343 cases, surpassing the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA).
- We are also continuously engaging industry to identify and to grow new areas of opportunity.
- One area that we hope to do more in is investment arbitration.
- These are typically complex and high-stakes cases that provide good exposure for our legal talent, and raise our profile as a dispute resolution centre.
- Maxwell Chambers is already hosting an increasing number of investment arbitration cases. Some of our lawyers, including Mr Andre Yeap S.C. and Mr Alvin Yeo S.C., have been involved in these.
- We intend to grow this area of work in the coming years and we welcome your ideas on how we can do so.
Before I conclude, I just had a good piece of news come in this morning from Justice Kannan Ramesh. He is in London at the moment, for the Global Restructuring Review (GRR) awards ceremony.
In London last night, Singapore won the “Most Improved Jurisdiction Award”. This is a result of the amendments that we have made to the Companies Act, to enhance our restructuring regime.
In addition, the Singapore Supreme Court is a member of Judicial Insolvency Network (JIN), which released a set of cross-border insolvency guidelines at its inaugural meeting in Singapore last year. These JIN guidelines also won the “Most Important Overall Development Award”.
Both initiatives were achieved through collaboration with our international partners, and we are very pleased with these awards.
Coming back to Maxwell Chambers; at the end of the day, whether or not we can realise our vision for Maxwell Chambers and for Singapore in dispute resolution depends not on bricks and mortar, but on our community of practitioners, on all of you present today.
We rely on you – whether you are Singaporean or a friend of Singapore – to work with us, to take dispute resolution to the next level. We hope to add value to you too, by providing a community and being a supportive base from which you can spread your wings to seize the exciting opportunities that Asia has to offer.
We look forward to partnering you, and to your continued support.
- Thank you very much.
Last updated on 05 Sep 2017