“Force majeure” queries surge in Singapore as virus cuts supply of Chinese labour

Faced with labour shortages because of the coronavirus epidemic, construction firms in Singapore are consulting law firms about how to invoke "force majeure" clauses to avoid being penalised for delays, Reuters has learned.

Many companies rely on Chinese workers, and Singapore stopped giving visas to people travelling from China on 31 January.

With 77 confirmed cases of coronavirus so far, Singapore is the worst-hit territory outside mainland China. Japan is next with 66 cases, and Hong Kong is third, with 61.

In contracts, a "force majeure" clause exempts a party from contract obligations in cases of major, unexpected, external circumstances.

One partner at TSMP Law Corporation told Reuters that five clients involved in public sector construction projects have consulted him in recent weeks for advice on force majeure. 

Two other senior lawyers said they, too, had received force majeure queries, but did not want to be named.

Private sector developers have been urged by the Building and Construction Authority to give contractors extensions amid the crisis.

Chinese workers holding existing work visas must seek approval before coming back to Singapore.

If approved, they must spend 14 days in quarantine.

According to Reuters, the last surge in interest in force majeure in Singapore was in 2007, when Indonesia banned sand exports to the city-state.

Image: ©GCR, illustration by Denis Carrier

Further reading:

Story for GCR? Get in touch via email: [email protected]

Latest articles in News