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Michael Tselentis QC

SC (South Africa), BA, LLB (Cape Town), BCL (Oxford), FCIArb, FSIArb, FAArb (SA), Chartered Arbitrator (UK)

Michael Tselentis QC is an international commercial Arbitrator, with wide-ranging experience which  includes disputes relating to energy and natural resources, shipping, commodity trading/international sale of goods, agency, distribution/franchising, shareholder disputes, construction and insurance.

Until 1 May 2015, when he retired from advocacy work in order to concentrate on his arbitration practice, he also practiced as an advocate in these fields. In the course of a 36-year career at the English and South African Bars, he appeared as counsel in a large number of cases in these and related areas before trial and appellate courts and arbitral tribunals, and he has been highly recommended by various practice directories, particularly in the fields of Energy and Natural Resources and International Arbitration (see under "Quotes" below).

He has been appointed in over 60 international commercial references as Presiding Arbitrator, Tribunal Member and Sole Arbitrator, principally (though by no means exclusively) in ICC, LCIA, SIAC, LMAA, UNCITRAL and ad hoc arbitrations, as well as a number of domestic references. His appointments (examples of which are given in the links below) have involved a wide variety of governing laws, including English, French, Netherlands, Western Australian, Indonesian, Qatari, Kenyan, Trinidad and Tobago, South African, Swazi, Lesotho, Tanzanian and Nigerian law. Arbitral seats have included London, Paris, Geneva, Singapore, Cyprus, Lagos, Dar Es Salaam, Mauritius and Johannesburg.

His current (July 2016) arbitration appointments include references relating to oil and gas assets in the Black Sea; the expropriation of mining rights in an African country; a mining venture in Indonesia; a property development project in Qatar; a contract for the manufacture and supply of components for mining equipment to the global subsidiaries of a major mining house; a contract for the provision of a deep-water drilling rig and  operations support services in the South Atlantic; a contract for work to be carried out on an FPSO; an equity dispute in respect of an oil and gas field offshore a West African country; a port dredging contract; and disputes relating to shipping and commodity contracts and guarantees.  

He is a Chartered Arbitrator (UK), and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK), the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators, the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration, the Association of Arbitrators (Southern Africa), and the Botswana Institute of Arbitrators. He is also a member of ICCA, the ICC (UK), the LCIA, ARIAS (UK), the LMAA (supporting member), the Chinese-European Legal Association (CELA), the New York International Arbitration Centre (NYIAC), the Perth Centre for Energy and Resources Arbitration (PCERA) and the Piraeus Association for Maritime Arbitration (PAMA). 

His international panel memberships include:

  • The ICDR's Energy Arbitrators' List
  • Chartered Institute of Arbitrators' Presidential Panel 
  • Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC)
  • Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA)
  • Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC)
  • Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration (KLRCAC)
  • China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC)
  • Shanghai International Arbitration Centre (SHIAC)
  • Chinese European Arbitrators' Centre (CEAC)
  • Arbitration Foundation of South Africa (AFSA)
  • Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (CRCICA)
  • Chicago International Dispute Resolution Association (CIDRA)
  • Badan Arbitrase Nasional Indonesia (BANI)
  • British Columbia International Commercial Arbitration Centre (BCICAC) 
  • Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (SCMA)
  • China Maritime Arbitration Commission (CMAC)

He holds the B.A. and LL.B. degrees from the University of Cape Town (1971), and the B.C.L. degree from the University of Oxford (1975), which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He was admitted as an Advocate of the High Court of South Africa in 1978 and was appointed Senior Counsel in South Africa in 1989. He practised at the Johannesburg Bar where he was a leading commercial silk, with a specialisation in mining law, from 1978 to 2000 before relocating his practice to London. While in practice at the Johannesburg Bar (as junior counsel and subsequently as Senior Counsel) he held general retainers on behalf of the Anglo American Corporation and the De Beers Corporation and their subsidiary and associated companies. He was appointed an Acting Judge of the South African High Court in 1992, and was Chairman of the Johannesburg Bar in 1993-1994.

He was called to the Bar of England and Wales by Gray's Inn in November 1995, and was appointed Queen's Counsel in April 2003. He was elected a Bencher of Gray's Inn in 2008.

Although the main focus of his practice as a Barrister and Arbitrator since 2000 has been the law of England and Wales, he also has considerable expertise in the civil law, by reason of his South African law degrees and his extensive practice at the South African Bar before moving to London, and he has been involved in cases which have raised issues of French, Netherlands, Romanian, Qatari, Russian, Azeri, Kazakh, Finnish, Thai, South African, Swazi, Lesotho and Namibian law.

He holds dual South African and Greek nationality.

Appointments: 

Arbitration Appointments: International Chamber of Commerce

Tribunal President appointed by the ICC: disputes between French and Tanzanian interests under a road construction contract.

Tribunal President appointed by the ICC: disputes under a contract for the provision of engineering services in Nigeria.

Tribunal Chairman nominated by the party-appointed arbitrators: disputes between USA and Trinidad and Tobago interests arising out of a contract for the provision of sub-sea horizontal directional drilling services and the installation of gas pipelines in the West Indies.

Tribunal Chairman appointed by the ICC: disputes between USA and Kuwaiti interests under an agreement for the distribution in the Middle East of computer software designed for hydrocarbon processing industries.

Tribunal Chairman appointed by the ICC: disputes under a construction contract governed by FIDIC Rules.

Sole arbitrator nominated by the parties: two consolidated references under a Software Agreement and a Services Agreement between Swiss and South African interests.

Sole arbitrator nominated by the parties: disputes under a joint operating agreement relating to a hydrocarbon block in Colombia.

Party-nominated Tribunal member: disputes between USA and UAE interests relating to a contract to supply jet fuel and diesel.

Party-nominated Tribunal member: dispute between USA and South African interests relating to a licence agreement and proprietary technology in respect of mine-protected military vehicles.

Party-nominated Tribunal member: dispute between two major brewery groups over a trademark licence agreement relating to the production of a beer brand in Southern Africa.

Party-nominated Tribunal member: dispute between Romanian and South African interests under a contract governed by French law for the manufacture and marketing of motor vehicles.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the ICC: dispute between Israeli and Dutch interests arising from a commercial venture in Eastern Europe.

ICC-appointed Tribunal member: dispute between a UK corporation and the government of an East African country under an agreement to render pre-shipment customs inspection verification services.

Arbitration Appointments: London Court of International Arbitration

Tribunal Chairman appointed by the LCIA: disputes between investors and developers of a substantial property development project in a Middle East country.

Tribunal Chairman nominated by the party appointed arbitrators: two consolidated references relating to oil and gas assets in the Black Sea and related transactions.

Tribunal Chairman nominated by the party appointed arbitrators: out-turn dispute arising from a crude oil sale contract.

Party-appointed arbitrator: disputes under a contract for the provision of a deep-water drilling rig, and deep water drilling operations support services.
 
Party-appointed arbitrator: disputes under a contract for work to be carried out on an FPSO.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the LCIA: dispute relating to the establishment and operation of a t20 cricket league in a prominent cricketing jurisdiction.

Sole arbitrator nominated by the parties: disputes between hedge funds and their managers, investment managers and valuation agents, relating to the management of the funds, fraud by the investment manager, and the valuation of complex and illiquid securities.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the LCIA: disputes arising out of an agreement for the provision of geophysical services in an oil and gas field.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the LCIA: dispute relating to a crude oil supply contract and related agreements.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the LCIA: disputes relating to loan and guarantee agreements.

Party-nominated Tribunal member: disputes between Singaporean, Japanese and Chinese interests relating to term contracts for the supply of iron ore.

Party-nominated Tribunal member: dispute between Swiss and Indonesian interests relating to coal supply contracts.

LCIA-appointed Tribunal member: dispute between commodity traders and the Swaziland Sugar Corporation arising from contracts to supply ethyl alcohols.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the LCIA: dispute between a USA corporation and Jordanian interests in respect of a contract for the construction of water reticulation works in Jordan.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the LCIA: dispute under a distributorship agreement relating to medical diagnostic equipment between Netherlands and Kuwaiti interests.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the LCIA: dispute between South African and Israeli interests arising out of joint venture and shareholders' agreements for the manufacture of automotive components.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the LCIA: dispute between a leading firm of solicitors and their clients.

Arbitration Appointments: Other

Tribunal Chairman, sole arbitrator and party appointed arbitrator in a number of references (under the LMAA Terms or ad hoc) arising from voyage charters, shipbuilding contracts and ship conversion contracts.

Sole arbitrator nominated by the parties in two arbitrations (which were heard concurrently) between the disponent owners of a bulk carrier, the demise charterers, and the sellers of a cargo of coal, arising from the loading of hot coal at a Mocambique port and an ensuing methane explosion on the vessel.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the Singapore International Arbitration Centre in two references  (heard concurrently) between Australian and Chinese interests arising out of agreements for the sale of iron ore mining tenements in Western Australia.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the Singapore International Arbitration Centre in a reference relating to a mining venture in Indonesia.

Party-appointed Tribunal member in an investment dispute relating to mining assets in an African country.  

Sole arbitrator in three references (heard concurrently) under the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules arising from commodity contracts and associated guarantees.

Party-appointed Tribunal member in a reference under the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules relating to the operation of a pricing adjustment formula in long-term coal supply contracts.

Party-appointed Tribunal member in two references under the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules arising from contracts for the manufacture and supply of mining components.
 
Party-appointed Tribunal member in a reference relating to an oil and gas field offshore a West African country.  

Chairman of a DAB in a dispute under a port dredging contract.   

Sole arbitrator appointed by the parties: ad hoc arbitration between UK and Canadian interests arising from contractual, accounting and tax disputes under a contract for the sale of shares in a platinum group metals processing venture.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the parties in 6 references (which were heard concurrently)  between the SA oil and gas parastatal, Sasol, and the major international petroleum companies operating in the SA market arising out of agreements for the manufacture and marketing of petroleum products, diesel oil, LPG and natural gas in South Africa.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the parties: dispute between South African and Botswana interests relating to the exploitation of forestry reserves.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the London Commercial Court under the Arbitration Act, 1996 in two arbitrations (heard concurrently) between the government of a West African country and a Korean corporation relating to contracts for the supply of heavy equipment.

Member of an Arbitration Society of South Africa Appeal Panel in a dispute under special risks insurance arising from forest fires.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the parties: dispute adjudicated under Arbitration Society of South Africa rules relating to the preparation and implementation of closing date accounts in respect of the sale of a South African supermarket group.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in a dispute relating to the conduct and liquidation of estate agency businesses.

Sole arbitrator appointed by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in a dispute between liability insurers as so their respective exposure to the insured under a Participating Insurers' Agreement.

Summary of Experience as Counsel

His arbitration work is informed by his broad experience as Counsel in commercial disputes, both in South Africa (1978-2000) and the United Kingdom (1996-2015), the main features of which were the following:    

International Arbitration

He was leading Counsel in a number of high-value international arbitrations, which included

Two long-running International Chamber of Commerce arbitrations before Singapore Tribunals on behalf of the Claimants, operators of pulp and paper and electricity generation plants in Thailand who sought substantial damages (in the form of lost pulp and paper production and diminished electricity generation) from the Finnish designers/suppliers of biomass-fuel fluidised bed power boilers on the grounds of defective design and unsuitability for burning locally-sourced biomass fuels, and negligent erection supervision.

An LCIA arbitration before a Paris Tribunal between Russian and Nigerian interests arising from an offshore oil prospecting licence granted by the Nigerian Government and ensuing commercial agreements.

An arbitration under UNCITRAL Rules before a London Tribunal between the operator of an oil and gas plant in Kazakhstan and a contractor, which raised issues relating to the proper performance of welding work on small-bore piping, quantification of loss and damage, and VAT liabilities under the laws of Kazakhstan.

An arbitration before a London Tribunal between the main contractor and a sub-contractor in respect of the design and installation of sub-sea flow-lines in an oil and gas field off the South African coast, the conversion of an oil tanker into an FPSO, and its installation on site.

Expert determination proceedings before an Australian QC under the laws of Western Australia between a leading mining house and commodity trader arising from an economic hardship clause in an iron ore supply contract and the collapse of the iron ore market in 2008.

An arbitration before a London Tribunal between the national shipping corporations of Iran and Azerbaijan, arising from a joint shipping venture in the Caspian Sea and the break-up of the Soviet Union which raised issues as to state succession and continuity of corporate legal personality under English conflict of laws and the laws of the USSR, Azerbaijan and Russia.

An arbitration before a London Tribunal between a leading commodity trader and the governmental purchasing agency of a European country relating to alleged breach of contract and fraud in respect of 32 cargoes of crude oil.

Other noteworthy arbitration work as Counsel included:

Two references between the insured interests and underwriters of aircraft hull and liability policies arising from aircraft accidents.

Arbitration and associated High Court proceedings between the shareholders of mining companies in Namibia, arising from disagreements as to the management of the companies and assets.

South Africa arbitration proceedings between the trustees and beneficiaries of a family trust with substantial farming and horse-breeding interests arising from alleged maladministration of the trust.   

Mining and Energy

He advised extensively on precious metal and base mineral rights disputes while in practice in South Africa, and held general retainers from the Anglo American Corporation, De Beers Mining Corporation, and their subsidiary and associated companies.

He continued to advise on South African mining law issues after moving to London, with particular reference to the implications and effect of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002, under South African and international law.

He was retained by the Claimants in Piero Foresti v The Government of the Republic of South Africa (2008), a BIT case under ICSID Rules, as an expert witness on South African mining law.

He was the leading counsel for Impala Platinum in their high-profile dispute with the Royal Bafokeng Nation which challenged Impala's rights to mine platinum group metals in Bophuthatswana, in the period 1996-1999 (Bafokeng Tribe v Impala Platinum Ltd and Others 1999 (3) SA 517 (BH)). He was also a member of Impala Platinum's legal team in the 1988-1989 litigation with the Royal Bafokeng Nation (Bafokeng Tribe v Impala Platinum Limited and Others, High Court of Bophuthatswana Judgment delivered on 30 May 1989).

He was Counsel in a number of South African High Court and Appellate Division cases relating to open-cast mining operations, the grant of surface-right permits, the validity and registrability of prospecting contracts, the de-watering of underground dolomitic compartments, the exercise of options to acquire mineral rights, judicial review of mining accident enquiries, and an arbitration arising from a contract for the processing of mine dumps in order to recover gold residues. A list of reported cases is available on request.

Shipping and Commodities

His experience as Counsel in this field includes:

A number of arbitrations before LMAA Tribunals relating to disputes under demise, time, and voyage charters and shipbuilding contracts, including two references arising from sulphur corrosion damage to the holds of bulk carriers.

A Hong Kong arbitration arising from the sinking of a bulk carrier as a result of the fluidization of a fluorspar cargo.

He was the leading Counsel for  the  successful  Claimant  in  the  Admiralty  Court  and  Court  of  Appeal  in  Standard Chartered Bank v Dorchester LNG, the "Erin  Schulte"  [2013]  EWHC  808  (Comm)  and  [2014]  EWCA Civ 1382 which raised important issues under the provisions of COGSA, 1992 relating to the delivery of indorsed bills of lading and title to sue, the rights of a confirming bank under letters of credit, and the legal nature of a beneficiary’s claims under such letters.

Macieo Shipping Ltd v Clipper Shipping Lines Ltd ("The Clipper  Sao  Luis")  [2000]  1 Lloyds Rep. 645: fire damage to cargo; liability for negligence of stevedores.

Seawind Tankers Corporation v Bayoil SA [1999] 1 Lloyd's Rep. 211 (CA): whether winding up proceedings competent on the basis of claims for freight and diversion expenses notwithstanding cross-claims for damages.

Marine Trade SA v Pioneer Freight Futures Co Ltd & Armada Singapore Pte Ltd [2009] EWHC 2656 (Comm) -- derivatives  (forward  freight  agreements)  and  construction  issues  relating  to  the  1992  ISDA  Master Agreement.

North Sea Energy Holdings BV v Petroleum Authority of Thailand [1999] 1 Lloyd's  Rep. 483 (CA): disputes  under a crude oil supply agreement and claim for damages on the basis of a "loss of chance".

Toepfer v Societe Cargill [1998] 1 Lloyd's Rep. 379 (CA): anti-suit injunctions.

Savage and Lovemore Mining (Pty) Ltd v International Shipping Co (Pty) Ltd  1987  (2)  SA  149  (W):  conformity of shipping documents presented under CIF sales of steam coal and effect of contravention of statutory export control scheme on seller's right to recover the purchase price.

Fontana  Holdings  (Pty) Ltd v  Chiavelli (South Africa, unreported): claim for commission moneys arising from  the alleged supply of crude oil to the SA Govt in breach of UN sanctions.

Insurance

He has advised in a number of insurance disputes involving South African and UK insurers/insureds and reinsurance interests under both English and South African law, including asbestosis and silicosis claims.

He has also advised in a broad variety of insurance disputes, including liability and professional indemnity cases, and has appeared in a number of reported South African insurance cases.

Commercial

He has appeared in a considerable number of reported cases in the South African Supreme Court and Appellate Division on a range of commercial issues, which include marine and non-marine insurance issues, schemes of arrangement under the South African Companies Act, subordination agreements and personal liability of company directors, the assignability of future and contingent rights, the concurrence of contractual and tortuous remedies for pure economic loss, unjustified enrichment, the effect of bribery on contractual obligations, the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments, vicarious liability for the negligence of independent contractors, the validity of discretionary trusts, insolvency issues, rights of pre-emption, conditions of auction, the stay of legal proceedings in favour of arbitration, exchange control issues, and the fiduciary duties of trustees and the liability of trustees' professional advisers for professional negligence.

A list of his reported cases is available on request.

Education and Career: 

BA (distinction), LLB (first class honours) (University of Cape Town), 1971. Rhodes Scholar, 1973. BCL (first class) (Magdalen College, Oxford University), 1975. Lecturer in law at South African Universities, 1972-3, 1975. Advocate of the SA High Court, 1978. Senior Counsel, South Africa, 1989. Acting Judge, SA High Court, 1992. SA Rules Board for Courts of Law, 1989-1992. Johannesburg Bar Council, 1991-1995; Chairman, 1993-4. SA Bar Examination Board 1992-4. Called to the Bar of England and Wales by Gray's Inn, 1995. Queen's Counsel, 2003. Bencher of Grays Inn, 2008. Chartered Arbitrator, 2008. Full-time Arbitrator from 1 May 2015.

Appointments and Society Memberships: 

  • Bar of England and Wales
  • Commercial Bar Association (COMBAR)
  • Technology and Construction Bar Association (TECBAR)
  • London Maritime Arbitrators' Association (LMAA) (supporting member)
  • South African Maritime Law Association
  • Chinese-European Legal Association (CELA)
  • ARIAS (UK)
  • Anglo-Russian Law Association

Lectures and Teaching: 

Publications and conference papers:

"The Concept of the "Holder" of a Bill of Lading under COGSA, 1992" (paper given at the XIX International Congress of Maritime Arbitrators in Hong Kong in May 2015).

Singapore chapter in "Arbitration World", 5th Edition (2015) and 4th Edition (2012) edited by Skadden Arps.

"Effective Advocacy in International Arbitration: a Masterclass for Chinese Lawyers" (20 Essex Street Seminar, Beijing, June 2012).

Seminars on English Commercial Law with members of the Russian Judiciary, on behalf of the Slynn Foundation, Moscow and St Petersburg, March 2012.

"Arbitral Awards on Jurisdiction Post Dallah: the Role of the Courts" (20 Essex Street Arbitration Seminar, Maxwell Chambers, Singapore, 24 Feb 2011)

Singapore Chapter in "Arbitration World", 3rd Edition, (2010) (co-author)

"International Commercial Arbitration and the Southern African Development Community" Advocate, August 2009.

"Adapting the UNCITRAL Rules of Arbitration for Regional Needs-Problems and Solutions" (Conference held in Mauritius in April 2007 under the auspices of the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and the Arbitration Foundation of South Africa).

"Criteria for Investment, with Particular Reference to Dispute Resolution" (ibid).

"Post-Contractual Good Faith" (20 Essex Street Insurance Law Conference, May 2007).

Quotes: 

He has been recommended as a QC in the fields of Energy and Natural Resources and International Arbitration by a number of directories, including the following:

Chambers and Partners, UK Bar (2016), Energy and Natural Resources: "He is a highly respected member of the Bar who has decades of experience in litigating energy issues, and increasingly focuses his practice in acting as an arbitrator. He is highly knowledgeable on upstream oil and gas contracts, licencing disputes, and mining transactions. Strengths: he has a formidable intellect and is a worthy opponent."

Chambers and Partners, Global (2015), Energy and Natural Resources: "Michael Tselentis QC is highly rated for energy and mining disputes. Experienced at the South African Bar and in African mining matters generally. He is very user-friendly and a stickler for detail. Delivers great results".

Chambers and Partners, UK Bar (2015), Energy and Natural Resources: "Michael Tselentis QC acts in litigation and arbitration and sits as an arbitrator in energy disputes. He has an internationally focused practice and appears in matters connected to areas such as oil and gas and mining. Strengths: very solid and very thorough, he leaves no stone unturned and has excellent analytical qualities"

Who's Who Legal, UK Bar 2015, Energy and Natural  Resources lists him as one of the six most highly regarded silks in this sector, and comments that "Michael Tselentis QC garners particular acclaim as both a barrister and arbitrator in this sector. He is internationally renowned for his work in the mining sector, having been involved in many high-profile cases, including precious metal and base mineral disputes in South Africa, where he practiced for many years."

The Legal 500, UK Bar (2014): "Recommended for offshore-related and mining arbitrations."

Chambers and Partners, Global (2014), Energy and Natural Resources.

Chambers and Partners, UK Bar (2014), Energy and Natural Resources.

Chambers and Partners, UK Bar (2013), Energy and Natural Resources: "The outstanding Michael Tselentis QC is absolutely top-class for energy and mining disputes. He receives particular recognition for the extensive work in this area that he has recently been undertaking in South Africa".

Chambers and Partners, UK Bar (2011) and (2012), Energy and Natural Resources: "his involvement in the energy sector touches upon a wide range of industries from mining to oil and gas. He is an extremely diligent technical lawyer who never misses a point".

The Legal 500 (Energy): "He is praised for the breadth of his knowledge in this field".

Chambers and Partners, International Arbitration (2007): "Michael Tselentis QC comes highly recommended and is recognised as an important figure".

Chambers and Partners, International Arbitration (2006): "Michael Tselentis QC sustains his reputation for adroitly handling technical cases, and is distinguished further by his South African background and related specialist expertise".

Chambers and Partners, International Arbitration (2005): "Michael Tselentis QC has carved out a reputation for excelling in highly technical cases, whether in insurance, shipping, commodities, international trade or construction and engineering sectors. He has a South African background and is particularly knowledgeable in all aspects of commercial law for that jurisdiction".

Chambers and Partners, International Arbitration (2004): "Market commentators singled out new silk Michael Tselentis as a talented general commercial litigator who has been involved in some major arbitrations of late".

Recommended by successive editions of Legal Experts (Energy and Natural Resources).

Named by The Lawyer as one of the "Hot 100" in 2004.