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ARBITRATION AS AN OPTION

There is an old Mexican curse which reads
“May your life be filled with lawyers.”  Anyone
who has firsthand experience with a lawsuit
or trial will understand the cruelty of that
curse. Litigation and trial, although time-
honored ways of solving commercial disputes
can be time-consuming, expensive and
psychologically exhausting.

For some disputes there is simply no option
but to settle them in court.  However, there
are just as many others which can be solved
by simpler and less-expensive means that leave both parties feeling justice has been served.

One of these options is Arbitration.  However, not all arbitration forums are created equal. One such
example is the Miami Maritime Arbitration Council (MMAC).

The MMAC was established more than 15 years ago by the Marine Council, a non-profit marine trade
association whose mission is to serve as the Guardian of the Marine Community.  MMAC was created
with the specific purpose of maintaining and administering a system for settlement – by arbitration or
mediation – of maritime commercial disputes.  Turning to the MMAC for help is not mandatory; the
parties must request intervention and agree to operate under the rules of that organization.


                                                                              Arbitration is an alternative method of solving a  
                                                                             dispute by submitting it to an objective panel of
                                                                             judges.  The panel has no authority except
                                                                             that which is given to it by the parties when they
                                                                            agree to enter the process in advance.  MMAC’s
                                                                            highly qualified “judges” listen to evidence,
                                                                            examine documents or testimony of the parties
                                                                            involved, and then rule on the merits of the claim
                                                                            or dispute.  This manner resolution is especially
                                                                            effective with technical or specialized cases, or
                                                                            those cases where the parties are looking to
                                                                            maintain some level of confidentiality and are
looking to avoid the publicity, expense and excessive time involved with an open trial.

The panel members are selected for their marine backgrounds to ensure familiarity with the type of
disputes that come before the panel.  Fairness is guaranteed from the start: A basic panel consists of
three arbitrators.  Each party appoints one arbitrator; those two arbitrators then select a third panel
member from the MMAC’s list of approved arbitrators.  This third person then presides over the
panel.  MMAC’s case managers will make the arbitration process easy for all concerned as they will
facilitate the entire process that includes: coordinating the arbitration utilizing the rules of MMAC,
assisting with the choice of arbitrators, scheduling hearings, keeping the arbitration on schedule as
well as facilitating the communication flow between all parties concerned.

Unlike an actual courtroom trial, there is no established format for the arbitration proceeding itself.  All
that is required is that the parties be treated equally and given a full opportunity to present their
cases.  Generally, the process enjoys a great deal more flexibility than that which is afforded by the
court system; for example, in scheduling proceedings at hours that are convenient for all concerned.