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High Court upholds arbitration agreement in cargo handling services agreement

14 September 2016
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It is a general principle of South African law that the High Court’s jurisdiction cannot be limited by a clause in a contract to refer disputes to arbitration.

While the court has discretion to decide whether to uphold an arbitration clause, the burden of proof rests on the party seeking to avoid arbitration (in favour of court proceedings). This burden – according to case law – is not easily discharged.

In the context of admiralty proceedings, the legislation governing South African admiralty procedure and practice grants the court express discretion to stay proceedings where the relevant parties agree that the disputed matter should be referred to arbitration or if, for any other sufficient reason, the court believes that the proceedings should be stayed.