Before 1986, very few maritime arbitrations were carried on in Vancouver despite the many contracts dealing with the large shipment of goods and the charters of vessels on behalf of British Columbia exporters when those contracts almost exclusively referred disputes to arbitration in London or New York. The main reason for arbitrations being held so far from Vancouver was the fact that the 1958 United Nations International Convention on the recognition and enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, enforceable in about 70 other industrial countries, was not applicable in British Columbia.On December 2, 1985, British Columbia enacted the Foreign Arbitral Awards Act, which provided on the coming into force of the Convention in Canada, it would apply in British Columbia, which it did on August 10, 1986.In November 1986, Bonita J. Thompson, QC, the Executive Director of the British Columbia International Commercial Arbitration Centre (BCICAC), brought together a small group of people she knew to be interested in fostering maritime arbitrations in Vancouver, to act as an advisory board for the BCICAC in maritime matters relating to the operation of the Centre.At a meeting of that group, it was decided to incorporate the Vancouver Maritime Arbitrators Association as the first step in making Vancouver capable of providing a suitable maritime arbitration facility for those in the maritime industry wishing to use it.On December 8, 1986, the Vancouver Maritime Arbitrators Association was incorporated under the Society of Act of British Columbiaby the advisory group acting as the Association’s first directors.
The stated purposes of the Association include:
1. establishing and maintaining standards of education, qualification and professional conduct for maritime arbitrators;
2. establishing procedural rules to govern the conduct of maritime arbitrations.
In September 1991, the International Congress of Maritime Arbitrators (ICMA) was held in Vancouver co-sponsored by the VMAA and the BCICAC, attended by arbitrators from 30 countries worldwide. The VMAA has been once again successful in its bid to host the ICMA XVIII conference in May of 2012.
The first annual general meeting of the VMAA was held in March 1987. In addition to annual meetings to elect directors and monitor the progress of arbitrators during the previous years, seminars are conducted several times during the year. An annual report including current rules and a roster of the arbitrating and supporting members of the Association is published each year. Presently there are over 35 arbitrating and mediating members as well as Individual and Corporate Supporting.