Michael Tselentis CV


Michael Tselentis QC practices at the English Bar as a Barrister and Arbitrator as a member of 20 Essex Street Chambers (www.20essexst.com), specialists in international commercial litigation and arbitration. He was called to the English Bar by Grays Inn in 1995, and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2003. He is also an Advocate of the Supreme Court of South Africa, and practiced at the Johannesburg Bar in the period 1978-2000. He was appointed Senior Counsel in South Africa in 1989, and an Acting Judge of the Supreme Court of South Africa in 1992. He is a graduate of the Universities of Cape Town (BA, LLB) and Oxford (BCL) which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He is also a former Chairman of the Johannesburg Bar.

He specialises in commercial litigation, arbitration and advisory work in a broad field which includes complex contractual disputes, insurance, shipping, commodities and international trade, mining and energy, engineering and construction, banking and professional negligence, under English or South African law. He also advises in London on South African commercial, insurance, mining and construction law. He accepts arbitration appointments in all the aforesaid areas.

He is a South African national.


He is regularly appointed as an arbitrator in the UK, South Africa and elsewhere, and has served on Tribunals sitting under the ICC, LCIA, LMAA, AFSA (Arbitration Foundation of South Africa), and ad hoc rules.

Arbitration accreditations:


  •       Chartered Arbitrator (UK)
  •       Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, UK
  •       Fellow of the Association of Arbitrators (Southern Africa)
  •       Fellow of the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA)
  •       Member of the ICC (UK)
  •       Member of the London Court of International Arbitration
  •       Member of the Arbitration Foundation of South Africa (AFSA) and of its Appeal, Commercial, and Mines and Water Rights Panels of Arbitrators
  •       Member of the International Arbitrators' Panel, Mauritius Permanent Arbitration Court

    His arbitration appointments include the following:

    Chairman of an LMAA Tribunal in a ship-building dispute.

    Sole arbitrator appointed by the ICC in an international shareholders' dispute arising from a commercial venture in Eastern Europe.

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

    Party-appointed member of an LCIA Tribunal in a dispute between Swiss and Indonesian interests relating to coal supply contracts.

    Party-nominated member of an ICC Tribunal in a dispute between SABMiller and Heineken Group under a trademark licence agreement relating to the production of Amstel lager in Southern Africa.

    Party-appointed member of an ICC Tribunal in a dispute relating to intellectual property rights in military equipment.

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

    Party-nominated member of an ICC Tribunal sitting in Paris in a dispute between Romanian and South African interests arising from a contract governed by French law for the manufacture and marketing of motor vehicles.

    Sole arbitrator appointed by the LCIA in a dispute under a distributorship agreement relating to specialized equipment between a Netherlands company and a company conducting business in a Middle Eastern country.

    Member of a London Tribunal appointed by the LCIA in a dispute between a leading commodity trader and the Swaziland Sugar Corporation arising from contracts to supply ethyl alcohols.

    Sole arbitrator appointed by the LCIA in a contractual dispute between South African and Israeli interests arising out of joint venture and shareholders’ agreements in respect of the manufacture of automotive components.

    Sole arbitrator appointed by the LCIA in a dispute between a USA corporation and a national of a Middle Eastern country in respect of a contract for the construction of water reticulation works in that country.

    Sole arbitrator in a tripartite dispute between disponent owners of a bulk carrier, the demise charterers, and the sellers of a cargo of coal, arising from a methane explosion which caused substantial damage. The disponent owner/demise charterer dispute was heard under the English Arbitration Act/LMAA Rules/English law and the demise charterer/seller dispute was heard under the SA Arbitration Act/SA Rules of Court/SA law (The "Avala" [1996] 2 Lloyds Rep 311).

    Sole arbitrator appointed by the parties in a dispute between SA and Botswana interests relating to the exploitation of forestry reserves.

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

    Sole arbitrator appointed by the parties to determine disputes between the SA oil and gas parastatal, Sasol, and the major petroleum companies operating in the SA market arising out of agreements for the manufacture and marketing of petroleum products.

    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 Far Eastern corporation arising from contracts for the supply of heavy equipment.

    Sole arbitrator appointed by the parties in a dispute adjudicated under AFSA rules relating to the preparation and implementation of closing date accounts in respect of the sale of a major South African supermarket group from one SA industrial holding company to another.


    He is recommended as a QC in Energy by The Legal 500, and in Energy and Natural Resources by Legal Experts.

    His recent briefs as leading counsel in international commercial and construction arbitrations include the following:


  •     An $85 million dispute arising from alleged welding defects in an oil and gas plant in Kazakhstan.
  •     An $8 million dispute between the national shipping corporations of two Caspian Sea countries arising from a joint shipping venture in the Caspian Sea.
  •     A $64 million dispute 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.
  •     A $25 million dispute between the main contractors and sub-contractors in respect of the design and installation of sub-sea flow-lines in a gas and oil field, the conversion of an oil tanker into a floating production, storage and off-take vessel, and its installation on site.
  •     Substantial pre-judgment interest issues in an international telecommunications arbitration.

    He has also been briefed as leading counsel in a variety of shipping disputes arising from demise, time, and voyage charters, including two substantial LMAA arbitrations arising from sulphur corrosion damage to bulk carriers.

    In the period 2000-2002 he was mainly engaged in two ICC arbitrations in Singapore as leading counsel on behalf of the claimants, operators of pulp and paper and electricity generation plants in an Asian country, who sought substantial damages from the suppliers of biomass-fuel fluidised bed power boilers installed in these plants, on the grounds of defective design and negligent erection supervision. The various claims and counterclaims in these proceedings amounted to about $250 million.

    Other cases in which he has appeared while in practice in the UK include Toepfer v Societe Cargill [1998] 1 Lloyd’s Rep. 379 (CA (anti-suit injunctions); Seawind Tankers Corporation v Bayoil SA [1999] 1 Lloyd’s Rep. 211 (CA) (cross-claims in winding up proceedings); North Sea Energy Holdings BV v Petroleum Authority of Thailand [1999] 1 Lloyd’s Rep. 483 (CA) (disputes under a crude oil supply agreement); Macieo Shipping Ltd v. Clipper Shipping Lines Ltd [2000] 1 Lloyds Rep. 645 (fire damage to cargo); Cameroon Airlines v Transnet Ltd [2004] EWHC 1829 (Comm) (Arbitration Act, 1996, Section 68).

    In the period 1996-1999 he led a substantial South African legal team acting on behalf of Impala Platinum Limited in litigation instituted before Southern African courts by The Royal Bafokeng Nation, which placed in issue the validity of Impala’s rights to mine platinum group minerals in Bophuthatswana: Bafokeng Tribe v Impala Platinum Ltd and Others 1999 (3) SA 517 (BH).

    Whilst in full-time practice in South Africa he held general retainers from the Anglo American Corporation, De Beers Mining Corporation, and their subsidiary and associated companies.

    He also appeared in a number of other substantial mining cases, including the following:

    Vansa Vanadium v Registrar of Deeds 1997 (2) SA 784 (T): validity and registrability of prospecting contracts.

    The Rand Water Board v The Far West Rand Dolomitic Water Association and Western Areas Gold Mining Company (1991): liability for the consequences of dewatering underground dolomitic compartments and claim for compensation by the holder of the water rights.

    Amcoal Collieries Ltd v Truter 1990 (1) SA 1 (AD): requirements for the valid exercise of an option to acquire coal rights.

    National Union of Mineworkers v Govt Mining Engineer 1990 (2) SA 638 (W): judicial review of enquiry into a mining accident.

    Kloof Gold Mining Co Ltd v Mining Commissioner, Johannesburg 1981 (4) SA 509 (T): conditions of grant of surface right permits.

    He also specialized in shipping, insurance, and commodities/international trade, and appeared inter alia in the following South African cases:

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

    Connolly v National Aviation Insurance Brokers (1983) (Pty) (Ltd) 1990 (1) SA 904 (W): insurance brokers' duties in respect of the on-payment of insurance premiums.

    Incorporated General Insurance Ltd v Shooter t/a Shooter's Fisheries 1987 (1) SA 842 (AD): "arrest, restraints and detainments of all kings, princes and people" clause in a policy of marine insurance.

    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.

    Banco Commercial de Angola v Banco Popular de Angola (1987): recognition and effect in South Africa of Angolan legislation for the nationalization of Portuguese commercial enterprises, and continuity of legal personality notwithstanding changes in sovereignty.

    Bethlehem Exports Ltd v Incorporated General Insurance Ltd 1984 (3) SA 449 (W): burden of proof of loss under marine insurance cover.

    Reiss Engineering Co v Insamcor 1983 (1) SA 1033 (W): requirements for the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments.

    Transvaal Alloys (Pty) (Ltd) v Polysius (Pty) (Ltd) 1982 (3) SA 630: requirements for the stay of legal proceedings in favour of arbitration.

    HB Farming Estates (Pty) Ltd v Legal and General Assurance Society Ltd 1981 (3) SA 129 (T): principles of construction of policies of insurance.

    He also appeared in prominent South African reported cases in the following areas:


  •     Fiduciary duties of trustees and liability of advisors to trustees for professional negligence: Jowell v Bramwell-Jones 2000 (3) SA 274 (SCA).
  •     Assignability of future and contingent rights: FNB v Lynn 1996 (2) SA 339 (AD).
  •     Re-opening of bidding at public auctions: Frank R Thorold (Pty) Ltd v Estate late Alfred Beit 1996 (4) SA 705 (AD).
  •     Schemes of arrangement, subordination agreements and personal liability of company directors: Ex parte De Villiers: In Re Carbon Developments (Pty) Ltd 1993 (1) SA 493 (AD), Incorporated General Insurance v Cement Distributors 1990 (1) SA 132 (AD).
  •     Requirements for the condictio indebiti: Klein N.O. v SA Transport Services 1992 (3) SA 509 (W).
  •    The inheritance rights of adopted children: Cohen v Roetz 1992 (1) SA 629 (AD).
  •    Vicarious liability for the negligence of independent contractors: Langley Fox Building Partnership v De Valence 1991 (1) SA 1 (AD).
  •     The requirements for a valid expropriation of land: AECI Ltd v Strand Municipality 1991 (4) SA 688 (C).
  •     The status of claims of assignees under factoring agreements on the insolvency of the assignor: Dantex Investment Holdings v National Explosives 1990 (1) SA 736 (AD).
  •     Unjustified enrichment and improvement liens: Standard Credit Corporation v Jot Motors 1986 (1) 223 (AD).
  •     The effect of bribery on contractual obligations: Plaaslike Boeredienste v Chemfos 1986 (1) SA 819 (AD).
  •     Rights of pre-emption in respect of land: Hirshowitz v Moolman 1985(3) SA 739 (AD).
  •     Liability for pure economic loss in tort where the claimant also has contractual rights: Pilkington Brothers v Lillicrap Wassenaar and Partners 1985 (1)(SA) 475 (AD).
  •     The effect of Exchange Control Regulations on rights to sue: Barclays National Bank Ltd v Thompson 1985 (3) SA 778 (AD).
  •     The validity of discretionary trusts: Braun v Blann 1984 (2) SA 850 (AD).
  •     The concept of "debt" and the validity of preferences under South African insolvency legislation: Joint Liquidators of Glen Anil v Hill Samuel (SA) Ltd 1982 (1) 103 (AD).
  •     Attachments to found jurisdiction on the strength of assigned claims: Skjelbreds Rederi A/S v Hartless (Pty) Ltd 1982 (2) 710 (AD).

    Other substantial un-reported cases or arbitrations in which he appeared include the following:


  •     Fontana Holdings (Pty) Ltd v Chiavelli (claim for commission moneys arising from the alleged supply of crude oil to the SA Govt in breach of UN sanctions).
  •     Escom v Ove Arup and Futurus (Pty) Ltd (a claim for damages against the consulting engineers/designers of the Matla Power Station and the contractor arising from the collapse of a flue and the consequent demolition of the extraction tower).
  •     A High Court trial action relating to the arson of commercial premises.
  •     A High Court trial action for damages arising from a hotel fire caused by defective fire protection equipment in the kitchens.
  •     A High Court trial action for damages arising from the flooding of commercial premises as a result of road construction activities.
  •     BS Beira v The Government of Bophuthatswana (a claim for substantial damages against the Boputhatswana Government for breach of an alleged concession to establish a national airline and insurance company in Bophutatswana).
  •     An arbitration between the trustees and beneficiaries of a family trust with substantial farming and horse-breeding assets arising from the alleged mal-administration of the trust.
  •     An arbitration and associated High Court proceedings between the shareholders of mining companies in Namibia, arising from dis-agreements as to the management of the companies and assets.

    Recent Conference Papers

    “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).


    Born, 4 November 1948, in Zimbabwe.

    Educated at Marandellas High School and Umtali Boys' High School (GCE O, and A and S levels).

    BA (distinction), LLB (first class honours) (University of Cape Town), 1971.

    Lecturer in law, University of Durban-Westville, 1972.

    Rhodes Scholarship, 1972.

    Senior Lecturer in law, University of CapeTown, Jan-Sept 1973, July-Dec 1975.

    Oct 2003-June 1975; Magdalen College, Oxford.

    BCL (first class) (Oxford University), 1975.

    Admitted as Attorney of the SA High Court, 1978.

    Admitted as Advocate of the SA High Court, 1978.

    Member of the Johannesburg Society of Advocates, 1978 to date.

    Senior Counsel, South Africa, 1989.

    Acting Judge of the High Court of South Africa, 1992.

    SA Bars' Representative on the SA Rules Board for Courts of Law, 1989-1992.

    Elected Member, Johannesburg Bar Council, 1991-1995.

    Vice-Chairman, Johannesburg Bar Council, and Chairman of the Professional Disciplinary and Fees Committee, 1992-3.

    Chairman, Johannesburg Bar Council, 1993-4.

    Member, SA Bar Examination Board 1992-4.

    Called to the Bar of England and Wales by Gray's Inn, November 1995.

    Appointed Queen’s Counsel, 2003.

    Appointed Chartered Arbitrator (UK), 2008.


    Updated 6 October 2008