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Craig Cunningham

Head of Shipping, Aviation and Logistics | Cape Town

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Contact

T: +27 21 480 7801

Overview

For some 30 years, Craig has built up a shipping practice advising ship owners, charterers, financiers, suppliers, hull underwriters and P&I Clubs in contentious and non-contentious matters across Southern Africa.

Craig has a strong and established client base in South Africa and abroad. He has been consistently ranked in the top tier of the shipping category for South Africa in both Chambers and Legal 500.

The attributes that have been key to building and maintaining client satisfaction in this competitive market are consistency, trust, delivering what he says he will deliver, and network of contacts. Craig knows where to find the right information and whom to talk to. Clients also appreciate his innovative yet practical thinking, responsiveness and ability to add value.

Craig thrives on the nuances and intricacies that go with maritime matters, from ship arrests and casualties to mortgage foreclosures, judicial sales, and cross-border insolvencies. He and a colleague successfully ran a London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) arbitration that was part-heard in London and then virtually in South Africa during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Given South Africa’s unique security and associated ship arrest provisions, a significant part of Craig’s work involves advising clients as to the enforcement and defence of maritime claims. These are invariably complex matters, requiring cost-effective and commercially viable bespoke solutions.

In addition to his legal expertise, Craig has an extensive knowledge of the maritime industry and is familiar with its technical terminology.

Experience

Jurisdictions worked in: Angola, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania.

Craig has been involved in various contentious matters on behalf of ship owners, charterers and their insurers, including:

  • Conducting two recent arbitration hearings, one of which was on LCIA terms part-heard in London and in South Africa respectively, with the other held locally in South Africa.
  • Representing various international banks and financiers in workouts in both South Africa and Namibia, to sell vessels and administer the resultant sale funds, including resolving complex cross-border insolvency issues. The vessels concerned have included E Whale, Aetos, Sadan K and Zeynep K, Panos Creation, Maverick Guardian, Antaeus and Trident Legacy, Schliemi Rickmers, Palenque, Huscar, Halani 1, DSH 1, Venture, and Marvin Star.
  • Acting for plaintiff claimants in successful in rem arrest actions, including the vessels Ainaftis and Deep Venture.
  • Bringing successful applications to arrest associated ships, including, most recently the vessels Ursus, Ephesus and Samjohn Solidarity, Captain Vangelis L, Chance, Ivan Papanin, Shandong Hai Chang, Hope 1 and Zita.
  • Acting on behalf of the owners of vessels arrested as associated ships in successful applications to set aside the arrests; the vessels involved included Rizcun Trader, Asian Hope, Bavarian Trader and Asturcon.
  • Arresting and attaching bunkers, cargo and other property followed by successful negotiations for security against release of arrested and attached property.
  • Acting for charterers to successfully arrest and sell cargo to satisfy arbitration awards charterers had obtained in their favour in excess of EUR 35 million.
  • Representing owners and their insurers in respect of cargo damage claims.
  • Advising vessel owners and their P&I insurers on legislative changes and facilitating the disembarkation and repatriation of crew and passengers before and during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.
  • Acting for the purchasers of vessels from Hanjin, against which writs had been issued following the Hanjin fallout, in a matter that was ultimately heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.

Craig also has particular experience of casualty facilitation and litigation in Southern Africa including:

  • Advising owners, operators and P&I insurers following oil pollution incidents and loss of containers overboard off the coast of South Africa, including the Seroja Lima and other vessels.
  • Representing owners, P&I insurers and H&M underwriters of vessels lost or involved in collisions and allisions off the Southern African coast, including the Alexandros T, Anangel Splendour, Maritime Master, Oliva, Border, Boundary, Sunrise Jade, Thor Friendship and most recently a container ship involved in a collision at Beira, Mozambique.
  • Representing owners, P&I insurers and H&M underwriters investigating fires on board, main engine breakdowns and groundings off the Southern African coast, including negotiations with local authorities and arrangements for the transhipment of cargo, involving, among others, the vessels Modern Drive, Boundary and Kiani Satu.
  • Assisting owners and charterers to negotiate access to vessels calling at South African ports following casualties.
  • Representing owners and insurers of the vessel Geo Searcher that sank off Tristan da Cunha in October 2020.
  • Successfully negotiating with local South African authorities on behalf of marine underwriters, to facilitate the tow of a stricken vessel from Mauritius to South Africa and there discharge the cargo.
  • Advising charterers and their insurers in respect of liabilities arising from a casualty in the Nena J.
  • Representing salvors in South African litigation involving the salvage of the vessels Shinkai Maru, Sea Elegance, Pine Trader and Smart.
  • Representing the owners and P&I insurers of a vessel grounded off Madagascar in a marine reserve with resultant pollution from spilled bunkers.
  • In conjunction with Bowmans’ Kenyan office, advising salvors on local legislation and procedures in relation to obtaining salvage security following a grounding at Mombasa, Kenya.
  • Assisting, in conjunction with the South African surveyor, the H&M underwriters in respect of a vessel which sank and blocked the container berth at Luanda, Angola.
  • Attending on behalf of the H&M underwriters to take statements and facilitate local repair arrangements following a crankcase explosion off Walvis Bay, Namibia.

His non-contentious matters include:

  • A sale and leaseback transaction involving an Atlantic lobster fishing fleet (acting for the financier).
  • A sale and leaseback of fishing vessels and a processing plant (acting for the financier and purchaser).
  • Registration of security bonds and mortgages for Mortgagees in the purchase of fishing vessels, blue water tonnage, commercial vessels, catamarans, luxury yachts and sport fishing craft.
  • Craig has also been involved in the following reported South African and Namibian cases:
  • The Marvin Star: Prime Paradise International Ltd v Wilmington Savings Fund Society FSB and Others [2023] NASC 34
  • The Forarun Naree: Afgri Grain Marketing (Pty) Ltd v Trustees for the time being of Copenship Bulkers A/S (in liquidation) and Others [2019] 3 All SA 321 (SCA)
  • The Seaspan Grouse: Seaspan Holdco 1 Limited and Others v MS Mare Tracer Schiffahrts GMBH & Co KG and Another 2019 (4) SA 483 (SCA)
  • The NYK Isabel: Northern Endeavour Shipping Pte Ltd v Owners of the NYK Isabel and Another [2016] 3 All SA 418 (SCA)
  • The Agatis: Aquarius Maritime Pte Ltd v The Agatis 2015 SCOSA B551 (WC)
  • The Sliver Star: Owners of the MV Silver Star v Hilane Ltd 2015 (2) SA 331 (SCA)
  • The Sliver Star: Hilane Ltd v Action Partner Ltd and Others 2014 (2) SA 392 (ECP)
  • The Pasquale della Gatta and The Filippo Lembo: Imperial Marine Company v Motor Vessel Pasquale della Gatta and Another; Imperial Marine Company v Motor Vessel Filippo Lembo and Another 2012 (1) SA 58 (SCA)
  • The Chenebourg: Lauritzen Bulkers A/S v MV Chenebourg (Swiss Marine Corporation Ltd Intervening) and Another 2011 (4) SA 467 (KZD)
  • The Alina II: Transnet Ltd v Owner of MV Alina II 2011 (6) SA 206 (SCA)
  • The Alina II: Transnet Limited v The Owner of The MV Alina II 2010 SCOSA A81 (WC)
  • The Vogerunner: TMT Bulk Co Ltd v Bunkers Laden Aboard MV Vogerunner (Billion Gain Enterprise Co (HK) Ltd Intervening) 2010 (3) SA 138 (WCC)
  • The Asian Hope: Asian Hope Shipping Ltd v Ocean Trade SA 2007 SCOSA C115 (D)
  • MV Rizcun Trader (No 4): MV Rizcun Trader v Manley Appledore Shipping Ltd 2000 (3) SA 776 (C)
  • The Rizcun Trader (No 3): Manley Appledore Shipping Ltd v MV Rizcun Trader 1999 (3) SA 966 (C)
  • The Rizcun Trader (No 2): Manley Appledore Shipping Ltd v Owner of the Rizcun Trader 1999 (3) SA 956 (C)
  • The Rizcun Trader (No 1): MV Rizcun Trader v Manley Appledore Shipping Ltd 1999 (3) SA 953 (C)
  • The Ocean King (No 2): MV Ocean King den Norske Bank ASA v MV Ocean King, Her Owners and All Other Persons interested in Her (Sheriff for the District of the Cape intervening) 1997 (4) SA 349 (C)
  • The Ocean King (No 1): Den Norske Bank ASA v MV Ocean King, Her Owners and All Other Persons interested in Her (Sheriff for the District of the Cape intervening) 1997 (4) SA 345 (C)
  • The Tao Men: The Tao Men v Degueldre 1996 (1) SA 559 (C)

Awards

  • Chambers and Partners ranked Craig in Band 1 for Shipping in South Africa for seven consecutive years (2018-2023) and Band 2 in 2017. 
  • Legal 500 inducted Craig into its Hall of Fame for Shipping and Transport (2023-2024) and ranked him as a Leading Individual in the same category for four consecutive years (2018-2022).

“Craig Cunningham is extremely experienced and efficient. He is able to handle the most complex cases and is an expert at case management.”
“He is an exceptional lawyer who really leads the team very well.” – Chambers and Partners, 2024.

‘Craig Cunningham is a highly regarded practitioner in the shipping space, and is sought after by marine insurers, charterers, shipowners, suppliers and financiers for his expertise in advising on cases involving maritime casualties, ship finance and the arrest and attachment of vessels.’ – Legal 500, 2024.

AREA OF EXPERTISE

Qualifications

  • University of Cape Town, Master of Laws (LLM).
  • University of Cape Town, Bachelor of Laws (LLB).
  • Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, BCom.

Professional Memberships

  • Craig is an admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa.
  • Craig is also a qualified notary.

INSIGHTS

Related Sectors

Overview

For some 30 years, Craig has built up a shipping practice advising ship owners, charterers, financiers, suppliers, hull underwriters and P&I Clubs in contentious and non-contentious matters across Southern Africa.

Craig has a strong and established client base in South Africa and abroad. He has been consistently ranked in the top tier of the shipping category for South Africa in both Chambers and Legal 500.

The attributes that have been key to building and maintaining client satisfaction in this competitive market are consistency, trust, delivering what he says he will deliver, and network of contacts. Craig knows where to find the right information and whom to talk to. Clients also appreciate his innovative yet practical thinking, responsiveness and ability to add value.

Craig thrives on the nuances and intricacies that go with maritime matters, from ship arrests and casualties to mortgage foreclosures, judicial sales, and cross-border insolvencies. He and a colleague successfully ran a London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) arbitration that was part-heard in London and then virtually in South Africa during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Given South Africa’s unique security and associated ship arrest provisions, a significant part of Craig’s work involves advising clients as to the enforcement and defence of maritime claims. These are invariably complex matters, requiring cost-effective and commercially viable bespoke solutions.

In addition to his legal expertise, Craig has an extensive knowledge of the maritime industry and is familiar with its technical terminology.

Experience

Jurisdictions worked in: Angola, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania.

Craig has been involved in various contentious matters on behalf of ship owners, charterers and their insurers, including:

  • Conducting two recent arbitration hearings, one of which was on LCIA terms part-heard in London and in South Africa respectively, with the other held locally in South Africa.
  • Representing various international banks and financiers in workouts in both South Africa and Namibia, to sell vessels and administer the resultant sale funds, including resolving complex cross-border insolvency issues. The vessels concerned have included E Whale, Aetos, Sadan K and Zeynep K, Panos Creation, Maverick Guardian, Antaeus and Trident Legacy, Schliemi Rickmers, Palenque, Huscar, Halani 1, DSH 1, Venture, and Marvin Star.
  • Acting for plaintiff claimants in successful in rem arrest actions, including the vessels Ainaftis and Deep Venture.
  • Bringing successful applications to arrest associated ships, including, most recently the vessels Ursus, Ephesus and Samjohn Solidarity, Captain Vangelis L, Chance, Ivan Papanin, Shandong Hai Chang, Hope 1 and Zita.
  • Acting on behalf of the owners of vessels arrested as associated ships in successful applications to set aside the arrests; the vessels involved included Rizcun Trader, Asian Hope, Bavarian Trader and Asturcon.
  • Arresting and attaching bunkers, cargo and other property followed by successful negotiations for security against release of arrested and attached property.
  • Acting for charterers to successfully arrest and sell cargo to satisfy arbitration awards charterers had obtained in their favour in excess of EUR 35 million.
  • Representing owners and their insurers in respect of cargo damage claims.
  • Advising vessel owners and their P&I insurers on legislative changes and facilitating the disembarkation and repatriation of crew and passengers before and during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.
  • Acting for the purchasers of vessels from Hanjin, against which writs had been issued following the Hanjin fallout, in a matter that was ultimately heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.

Craig also has particular experience of casualty facilitation and litigation in Southern Africa including:

  • Advising owners, operators and P&I insurers following oil pollution incidents and loss of containers overboard off the coast of South Africa, including the Seroja Lima and other vessels.
  • Representing owners, P&I insurers and H&M underwriters of vessels lost or involved in collisions and allisions off the Southern African coast, including the Alexandros T, Anangel Splendour, Maritime Master, Oliva, Border, Boundary, Sunrise Jade, Thor Friendship and most recently a container ship involved in a collision at Beira, Mozambique.
  • Representing owners, P&I insurers and H&M underwriters investigating fires on board, main engine breakdowns and groundings off the Southern African coast, including negotiations with local authorities and arrangements for the transhipment of cargo, involving, among others, the vessels Modern Drive, Boundary and Kiani Satu.
  • Assisting owners and charterers to negotiate access to vessels calling at South African ports following casualties.
  • Representing owners and insurers of the vessel Geo Searcher that sank off Tristan da Cunha in October 2020.
  • Successfully negotiating with local South African authorities on behalf of marine underwriters, to facilitate the tow of a stricken vessel from Mauritius to South Africa and there discharge the cargo.
  • Advising charterers and their insurers in respect of liabilities arising from a casualty in the Nena J.
  • Representing salvors in South African litigation involving the salvage of the vessels Shinkai Maru, Sea Elegance, Pine Trader and Smart.
  • Representing the owners and P&I insurers of a vessel grounded off Madagascar in a marine reserve with resultant pollution from spilled bunkers.
  • In conjunction with Bowmans’ Kenyan office, advising salvors on local legislation and procedures in relation to obtaining salvage security following a grounding at Mombasa, Kenya.
  • Assisting, in conjunction with the South African surveyor, the H&M underwriters in respect of a vessel which sank and blocked the container berth at Luanda, Angola.
  • Attending on behalf of the H&M underwriters to take statements and facilitate local repair arrangements following a crankcase explosion off Walvis Bay, Namibia.

His non-contentious matters include:

  • A sale and leaseback transaction involving an Atlantic lobster fishing fleet (acting for the financier).
  • A sale and leaseback of fishing vessels and a processing plant (acting for the financier and purchaser).
  • Registration of security bonds and mortgages for Mortgagees in the purchase of fishing vessels, blue water tonnage, commercial vessels, catamarans, luxury yachts and sport fishing craft.
  • Craig has also been involved in the following reported South African and Namibian cases:
  • The Marvin Star: Prime Paradise International Ltd v Wilmington Savings Fund Society FSB and Others [2023] NASC 34
  • The Forarun Naree: Afgri Grain Marketing (Pty) Ltd v Trustees for the time being of Copenship Bulkers A/S (in liquidation) and Others [2019] 3 All SA 321 (SCA)
  • The Seaspan Grouse: Seaspan Holdco 1 Limited and Others v MS Mare Tracer Schiffahrts GMBH & Co KG and Another 2019 (4) SA 483 (SCA)
  • The NYK Isabel: Northern Endeavour Shipping Pte Ltd v Owners of the NYK Isabel and Another [2016] 3 All SA 418 (SCA)
  • The Agatis: Aquarius Maritime Pte Ltd v The Agatis 2015 SCOSA B551 (WC)
  • The Sliver Star: Owners of the MV Silver Star v Hilane Ltd 2015 (2) SA 331 (SCA)
  • The Sliver Star: Hilane Ltd v Action Partner Ltd and Others 2014 (2) SA 392 (ECP)
  • The Pasquale della Gatta and The Filippo Lembo: Imperial Marine Company v Motor Vessel Pasquale della Gatta and Another; Imperial Marine Company v Motor Vessel Filippo Lembo and Another 2012 (1) SA 58 (SCA)
  • The Chenebourg: Lauritzen Bulkers A/S v MV Chenebourg (Swiss Marine Corporation Ltd Intervening) and Another 2011 (4) SA 467 (KZD)
  • The Alina II: Transnet Ltd v Owner of MV Alina II 2011 (6) SA 206 (SCA)
  • The Alina II: Transnet Limited v The Owner of The MV Alina II 2010 SCOSA A81 (WC)
  • The Vogerunner: TMT Bulk Co Ltd v Bunkers Laden Aboard MV Vogerunner (Billion Gain Enterprise Co (HK) Ltd Intervening) 2010 (3) SA 138 (WCC)
  • The Asian Hope: Asian Hope Shipping Ltd v Ocean Trade SA 2007 SCOSA C115 (D)
  • MV Rizcun Trader (No 4): MV Rizcun Trader v Manley Appledore Shipping Ltd 2000 (3) SA 776 (C)
  • The Rizcun Trader (No 3): Manley Appledore Shipping Ltd v MV Rizcun Trader 1999 (3) SA 966 (C)
  • The Rizcun Trader (No 2): Manley Appledore Shipping Ltd v Owner of the Rizcun Trader 1999 (3) SA 956 (C)
  • The Rizcun Trader (No 1): MV Rizcun Trader v Manley Appledore Shipping Ltd 1999 (3) SA 953 (C)
  • The Ocean King (No 2): MV Ocean King den Norske Bank ASA v MV Ocean King, Her Owners and All Other Persons interested in Her (Sheriff for the District of the Cape intervening) 1997 (4) SA 349 (C)
  • The Ocean King (No 1): Den Norske Bank ASA v MV Ocean King, Her Owners and All Other Persons interested in Her (Sheriff for the District of the Cape intervening) 1997 (4) SA 345 (C)
  • The Tao Men: The Tao Men v Degueldre 1996 (1) SA 559 (C)

Awards

  • Chambers and Partners ranked Craig in Band 1 for Shipping in South Africa for seven consecutive years (2018-2023) and Band 2 in 2017. 
  • Legal 500 inducted Craig into its Hall of Fame for Shipping and Transport (2023-2024) and ranked him as a Leading Individual in the same category for four consecutive years (2018-2022).

“Craig Cunningham is extremely experienced and efficient. He is able to handle the most complex cases and is an expert at case management.”
“He is an exceptional lawyer who really leads the team very well.” – Chambers and Partners, 2024.

‘Craig Cunningham is a highly regarded practitioner in the shipping space, and is sought after by marine insurers, charterers, shipowners, suppliers and financiers for his expertise in advising on cases involving maritime casualties, ship finance and the arrest and attachment of vessels.’ – Legal 500, 2024.

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