Arbitration Overview


Arbitration is a traditional method for resolving legal disputes out-of-court. It is simpler, faster and less expensive than litigation. In arbitration, a tribunal comprised of one or more arbitrators (impartial, neutral third-persons) hears both sides and renders a decision to resolve the case.

Arbitration has been successfully used by consumers, businesses, governmental agencies—even the courts—as an alternative to litigation. Arbitration is recommended where confidentiality must be preserved, where the parties wish to avoid the time, expense and publicity of a court trial, and where specialized expertise of the tribunal will assist the parties in resolving their dispute.

Arbitration may be contractually agreed by the parties in advance of the dispute, ordered by a court in a pending lawsuit, or initiated voluntarily after the dispute has arisen. Arbitration is seen as a more effective means to resolve disputes than litigation, not least because it is confidential in nature and much more informal than courtroom proceedings.

Arbitration is particularly useful in technical cases, or those involving specialized knowledge, such as maritime disputes. Most importantly, parties can choose their own arbitrator—unlike the court system, where judges are assigned to the case. In arbitration the parties choose a decision maker who has experience in the subject matter of the dispute.

In contrast to courtroom proceedings, in arbitration the parties can agree on the location and schedule for the hearing, the manner of obtaining and using evidence, the use of live testimony or declarations, the confidentiality of proprietary information, the identity and number of arbitrators, and the scope of issues to be arbitrated.

The arbitral tribunal’s decision can be final (binding) or not final (non-binding), depending on the rules of the arbitration, which are usually set in advance by the parties themselves, by the court, or by law or contract. The arbitral tribunal may spell out in writing the reasons for a particular decision, but often it gives only the decision. That decision, if properly filed with a court, can have the same weight and effect as a formal court judgment.

The MAA’s Role

The MAA is the administrator of the arbitration process. Our case managers facilitate the arbitration process according to the agreed rules. We provide the parties with suggested arbitrators, coordinate the selection process, and keep the case moving along. We answer the parties’ procedural questions, coordinate information flow between the parties and the arbitrators, and arrange hearings.

The MAA has designed its arbitration process to be prompt, fair and efficient. MAA arbitration uses simple filing documents, clear and few rules, easily scheduled hearings, promptly issued awards. MAA arbitration can be conducted on an expedited basis using time limitations appropriate to the type of case and amount in controversy.

The MAA arbitration process serves the maritime community’s need for specialized alternative dispute resolution services, conducted fairly, efficiently and promptly.