Society of Maritime Arbitrators

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General Information

  • Official name: Society of Maritime Arbitrators
  • Country: USA
  • City: New York
  • Type of organization: Non-profit organization
  • Date of creation: 1963
  • Interests: Arbitration - Mediation
  • Fields of expertise: Commercial Maritime Disputes

General Purpose

Society of Maritime Arbitrators, INC. is a professional, non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the general public and members of the maritime industry about procedures for Alternate dispute resolution (“ADR”) in the maritime industry, to educate the general public and members of the maritime industry about the substantive law, and to encourage the use of ADR for the resolution of commercial disputes arising in the maritime industry.


In 1963, a small group of individuals active in maritime arbitration in New York saw the need to form an organization to promote sound arbitration and to establish ethical standards for its membership. They created the Society of Maritime Arbitrators, Inc. (SMA), a professional, non-profit organization, to meet these needs. The SMA, however, does not participate in the administration of individual arbitrations.

SMA Model Arbitration Clause

  • Should any dispute arise out of this Charter, the Matter in dispute shall be referred to three persons at New York, one to be appointed by each of the parties hereto, and the third by the two so chosen; their decision or that of any two of them shall be final, and for the purpose of enforcing any award, this agreement may be made a rule of the Court. This Charter shall be governed by the Federal Maritime Law of the United States. The proceedings shall be conducted in accordance with the Rules of the Society of Maritime Arbitrators, Inc. The arbitrators shall be members of the Society of Maritime Arbitrators, Inc.


Beginning in 1963, the SMA promulgated arbitration rules which provided general guidelines for arbitrators in the conduct of maritime arbitration proceedings. These rules have been in absolute conformity with the Act. Parties, who have opted to arbitrate in New York, frequently agree to apply these rules or use them as general guidelines in the conduct of proceedings, even when the rules are not formally included in their contracts. In cooperation with the Arbitration Committee of the Maritime Law Association of the United States, the SMA has revised its rules in 1994 to improve the efficiency of the arbitral process. The changes to the rules include three significant improvements: a provision for consolidation of disputes, a more efficient way of compelling an opponent to arbitrate and the award of attorney fees. Parties, who do not wish to consolidate disputes, may opt out of consolidation by excluding it from the arbitration clause. Minor changes have been made as of September 15, 2003 and mainly consist in broadening the scope of Section 2 (Consolidation) and clarifying the terms under which moneys are held by the SMA in escrow as security for arbitrators' fees and expenses (Appendix C).

Code of Ethics

The SMA has also established standards of conduct for arbitrators, promulgated in its Code of Ethics. SMA arbitrators, even when party-appointed, are expected to be impartial and must act without bias, partisanship or the appearance thereof. The SMA's Committee on Professional Conduct is responsible for investigating all complaints concerning the conduct of its members.


In order to assist the maritime industry in the resolution of disputes and in the selection of qualified arbitrators, the SMA publishes a roster of its members. The roster contains a brief description of the general background and expertise of each member. Members of the SMA are commercial people, recognized as leaders in their respective sectors of the industry, who have held a responsible commercial position for at least ten years. Membership in the SMA, as determined by the Membership Committee and ratified by both the Board of Governors and the general membership, is limited to individuals who combine expertise with the highest level of personal integrity. The SMA membership is drawn from the following fields: vessel management and owning, chartering management, brokerage, P & I Clubs, insurance, claims management, stevedoring, banking, surveying, engineering, shipbuilding, terminal operations, agency, etc. The roster enables disputants to identify arbitrators who have received training in the mechanics of arbitration, and can assist in the selection of panels particularly suited to decide a dispute in an area requiring specialized knowledge or expertise.

Educational Programs

One of the SMA's most important functions is in the educational area. Throughout the year, periodic internal workshops and seminars are conducted for members and provide the opportunity for a free exchange of ideas and experiences among arbitrators and between arbitrators and outside experts and guests.

The SMA hosts monthly luncheon seminars during the course of the year which are widely attended by arbitrators, attorneys and members of the maritime community. Annual seminars are equally well attended. Speakers are drawn from the maritime bar, the SMA's own membership and the industry at large.

SMA members regularly participate in international conferences and assemblies, such as the biennial International Congress of Maritime Arbitrators.


The SMA publishes The Arbitrator, a newsletter which is regularly distributed, without charge, to over 1,500 readers worldwide. It contains announcements about recent developments in the field as well as summaries of interesting awards.

Most important, however, is the Award Service, which publishes the full text of arbitration awards by SMA members. The service is available through annual subscription. Subscribers include a wide spectrum of owners, charterers, P and I Clubs, law firms, university libraries, and brokers all over the world. Awards are published in New York as a matter of course unless, at any time before the issuance of the award, both parties request that the award not be published.

SMA awards are also included in the LEXIS research data bank and now number over 4000 awards. Such awards, dating back to the 1950's, contain the factual background of the dispute and the reasoning used by the Panel members to support their decisions. Such reasoning is of great value as it provides insights into the practices and customs of the trade. The awards may therefore serve as a guide, not only for the resolution of disputes, but also as a means of avoiding disputes when negotiating fixtures.

While New York arbitrators are not absolutely bound by arbitral precedents, in an effort to maintain consistency, panels do take prior awards into consideration. Subscribers also receive Indices and Digests summarizing and categorizing the awards.



30 Broad Street - 7th Floor - New York, NY 10004 - USA

Tel: 212-344-2400

Fax.: 212-344-2402


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