Craig Cunningham

Craig Cunningham

Head of Shipping, Aviation and Logistics
Cape Town, South Africa
T: +27 21 480 7801
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Craig Cunningham is the head of our Shipping Practice.

He specialises in contentious and non-contentious matters in this field. Craig advises ship owners, charterers and their insurers in claims, investigations, matters of liability, arrests, matters involving vessels lost or involved in collisions, selling and administrating the funds of vessels and representing salvors in local litigation involving the salvage of vessels. He also acts for various clients in sale and leaseback transactions as well as registration of securities in the purchase of vessels. His experience extends to casualty facilitation in the rest of Africa.

He has BCom from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and LLB and LLM degrees from the University of Cape Town. He is also a qualified notary. Craig is internationally respected for his innovative thinking and ability to add value.  

Specialist Services

Relevant Experience

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

  • 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.
  • Conducting two recent arbitration hearings, one of which was on LCIA terms and part-heard in London, with the other held locally in South Africa.
  • Acting on behalf of the owners of vessels arrested as associated ships in successful applications to set aside the arrests involving, amongst others, the vessels “Rizcun Trader”, “Asian Hope” “Bavarian Trader” and “Asturcon”.
  • 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 for plaintiff claimants in successful in rem arrest actions, including the vessels “Ainaftis” and “Deep Venture” and bunker attachments, including most recently the vessel “Coronis”.
  • Arresting and attaching bunkers, cargo and other property followed by successful negotiations for security against release of arrested and attached property.
  • Representing owners and their insurers in respect of cargo damage claims.
  • Representing various international banks in workouts in both South Africa and Namibia, in selling vessels and administering the resultant ship funds, including resolving complex cross border insolvency issues involving, amongst others, the vessels, , “E Whale”, “Aetos”, “Sadan K” & “Zeynep K”, “Panos Creation”, “Maverick Guardian”, “Antaeus” and “Trident Legacy”, “Schliemi Rickmers”, “Palenque”, “Huscar”, “Halani 1”, “DSH 1” and “Venture”.
  • .Advising charterers and their insurers in respect of liabilities arising from a casualty in the “Nena J”.
  • Representing salvors in local litigation involving the salvage of the vessels “Shinkai Maru”, “Sea Elegance”, “Pine Trader” and “Smart”.
  • 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.

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.

Particular experience of casualty facilitation in the rest of Africa:

  • 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 off the Southern African coast including the “Alexandros T”, “Anangel Splendour”, “Maritime Master”, “Oliva”, “Border”, “Boundary”, “Sunrise Jade” and “Thor Friendship”.  
  • Representing owners, P&I insurers and H&M underwriters investigating fires on board, main engine breakdowns, and groundings off the Southern African coastline, including negotiations with local authorities and arrangements for the transhipment of cargo, involving amongst others, the vessels “Modern Drive”, “Boundary” and “Kiani Satu”.
  • Representing the owners and insurers of a container ship involved in a collision at Beira, Mozambique.
  • Successfully negotiated 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.
  • Representing owners and insurers of the vessel “Geo Searcher” that sank off Tristan da Cunha in October 2020.
  • 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.
  • Acting for the H&M underwriters covering FFO losses following dock damage at Maputo, Mozambique.
  • Attending for the H&M underwriters in respect of a vessel grounded at Beira, Mozambique and subsequently facilitating associated P&I elements.
  • Attending on behalf of the H&M underwriters to take statements and facilitate local repair arrangements following a crankcase explosion off Walvis Bay, Namibia.

Craig has also been involved in the following reported cases:

  • 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)

Signature Matters


  • Chambers and Partners consistently ranked Craig in in Band 1 for Shipping for the past six consecutive years (2018 to 2023) and Band 2 in 2017 for the same category.
  • Legal 500 consistently recognised Craig as a Leading Individual for Shipping & Transport for the past five years (2018 to 2022) and as a Recommended Laywer for the same category in 2017.
  • Craig was recognised by Who’s Who Legal in both the 2018 and 2019 editions of Thought Leaders Global Elite for Shipping.
  • Recognised by Best Lawyers 2017 for Maritime Law.

‘Craig Cunningham offers strong leadership and technical abilities and can be trusted to provide clear, user-friendly advice.’

‘He is pretty formidable, has a big reputation and lots of knowledge.’ – Chambers and Partners, 2023

‘Craig Cunningham is a top guy and gets it.’  Legal 500, 2022

‘He’s a solution finder, an innovative thinker who thinks outside of the box.’

‘He is a good lawyer with a good name in the market.’ – Chambers and Partners, 2022

‘Head of department Craig Cunningham is lauded by clients, who assert: “Craig is very approachable and does not beat around the bush. He is willing to get to the point and not skirt around difficult issues. This only comes with experience, and Craig has bags of it.” He possesses a deep roster of P&I club clients and a wealth of shipping arrest experience, as well as a thorough grasp of the field’s regulatory regime.’– Chambers and Partners, 2021

‘The widely renowned Craig Cunningham is distinguished for his expertise in maritime law, covering ship arrests, attachment of vessels and casualties. He remains one of the pre-eminent practitioners in the space, with one peer commenting that he is “no doubt one of the most substantial shipping lawyers” in South Africa. He heads the firm’s shipping and logistics practice.Chambers and Partners 2020

Craig Cunningham is a distinguished shipping lawyer with a formidable reputation. His stellar track record includes acting for owners, underwriters and charterers on the full array of maritime matters, including arrests, casualties and judicial sales. Described as “an excellent lawyer and a prolific litigator,” he has handled novel disputes concerning the interpretation of the law on protective writs. Interviewees add: “We take a lot of comfort in his opinion and reputation in this market and globally.” Chambers and Partners 2019

Craig Cunningham is considered “one of the grandees of admiralty law in South Africa” and is widely regarded as a top-drawer shipping lawyer. He has formidable expertise in all manner of shipping-related instructions, ranging from judicial sales to high-profile arrests and casualty work. He also regularly acts on mortgage enforcements. Clients remark: “He delivers exactly what we need when we want a high-calibre lawyer for complex ship arrests and casualties.”Chambers and Partners 2018

Head of the shipping and logistics team Craig Cunningham is seen to be “a capable lawyer and formidable opponent” by peers. He has gained years of experience handling complex ship arrest and casualty cases. One recent matter saw him act for the hull and machinery and P&I underwriters following a collision between the ‘MV Genco Tiberius’ and the berth at Richards Bay. Clients say: “He is level headed, goes the extra mile, and is customer-focused and responsive.”Chambers and Partners 2017

Publications & Insights