According to MAA Executive Committee chairman Thomas A. Russell, "Maritime arbitration is simpler, faster and less expensive than litigation. It has been successfully used by consumers, businesses, governmental agencies--even the courts--and is recommended where confidentiality must be preserved, where the parties wish to avoid the time, expense and publicity of a court trial. Arbitration can resolve disputes locally, not abroad or in distant cities, by arbitrators who understand their industry."
The MAA is the only national group specializing in arbitration and mediation in the maritime field. There are other groups offering these services in the U.S., but they are regional or have not been particularly interested in the marine industry. A significant difference in the MAA is that all of its arbitrators and mediators are peer-reviewed maritime lawyers.
Arbitration and mediation have deep roots in the maritime arena. After World War I, Congress passed the Federal Arbitration Act to encourage arbitration. In the 1980s, when fear of an explosion in litigation took hold, the U.S. Supreme Court found a strong federal policy favoring arbitration. A recent interest in return to the benefits of arbitration--notably the desire to save costs by resolving U.S. disputes locally--led to the formation of the MAA.
In arbitration the dispute is reviewed by one or more impartial persons who issue a final and binding decision that is enforceable in court. Mediation is voluntary and involves an impartial person who guides the parties to an agreed settlement. Compared with customary court cases that face backlogs and can require significant time and expenses in the discovery phase, these proceedings typically shorten the time to resolution and cut costs.
Engaging the MAA will assure maritime knowledge and experience is reflected in the process of resolving disputes. And since arbitration and mediation bring differing parties together as opposed to keeping them at a distance, which is common in litigation, business relationships can often be saved or maintained.
The cost to arbitrate is dependent upon a number of factors. Commercial cases will typically involve more detail, time, and thus expense than recreational (consumer) ones. Larger claims will increase costs. Administrative and other expenses may be charged.