International Congress of Maritime Arbitrators XXIII: over 50 years of knowledge sharing and networking

Following the recent announcement that the International Congress of Maritime Arbitrators 2026 (ICMA XXIII) will be held in Singapore, UNUM would like to congratulate the Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration as the host of this major international convention. As usual, UNUM is looking forward to an insightful event, but why is ICMA regarded as an important gathering for the global community of maritime arbitrators? Here Marcel Verhagen, Chair of UNUM, explains.

Held every two years since 1972, ICMA is the only international forum where industry experts can share views about maritime arbitration. For over fifty years, ICMA has been able to count on attendees from a wide variety of backgrounds, ranging from arbitrators and users to service providers and clients, guaranteeing and facilitating high-quality discussions and knowledge exchange.

In addition, the attendees can expect a well-thought-through programme covering both arbitral related topics and maritime law subjects to expand their knowledge. In general, at this congress, you have the opportunity to see everyone who is anyone in maritime arbitration.

Demonstrating the relevancy of arbitration

From experience, Marcel Verhagen knows that the congress is a pleasant combination of networking opportunities and knowledge development and exchange, demonstrating the relevancy of arbitration. “Within the maritime industry, arbitration is not only a well-known phenomenon, it is an important method for dispute resolution”, Verhagen explains. It has to do with the complexity of maritime business, which demands a high level of industry expertise for resolving disputes. In other words, it is very useful when arbitrators have personal experience and knowledge about the topic at hand, particularly if that proficiency is combined with a thorough understanding of the law, of course.

Another huge advantage for parties is that arbitration is conducted in strict confidentiality and arbitral awards are much easier to enforce internationally – under the New York Convention – than court rulings . Which is of course an extremely important aspect in a sector such as the maritime industry, where international business is very common.

ICMA XXIV in Rotterdam, the maritime capital of Europe?

A longtime attendee, Verhagen would very much like UNUM to host ICMA in the future. “Remember that arbitration is firmly rooted in the Dutch legal system – it was introduced into the Dutch Code of Civil Procedure in 1838 – and the Dutch have always been internationally involved in arbitration. For example, Dutch lawyer Piet Sanders’ efforts led to the New York Convention; Sanders was, in fact, one of the co-authors of the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules too.

UNUM was one of the parties to submit a proposal to organise ICMA XXIII”, he continues, “and even though our bid was not awarded, we received positive feedback from the steering committee, which gave us enough confidence to try again for ICMA XXIV in 2028. It would be great to welcome the international community in Rotterdam, the maritime capital of Europe.” Nonetheless, Verhagen wants to focus on ICMA XXIII first. “I am already looking forward to meeting my peers in Singapore for shrewd discussions and inspiring meetings!

Photo credit: Iris van den Broek