Michael McCarthy, Director, Lowndes, Law Firm, Auckland; Shipping and Maritime Lawyer




Michael has a broad range of commercial litigation and dispute resolution experience with a special expertise in maritime, shipping, transport, ports and aviation. After establishing his career in New Zealand, he spent seven years with the London office of an international law firm. During his time in London he was admitted as a solicitor of the High Court in England and Wales.

Within his maritime, shipping, transport, ports and aviation practice, Michael has particular skills in the effective assembling and management of teams in large-scale litigation projects – a role outside the usual skills of a lawyer as advisor. Such projects include the litigation and project management of a team of professionals resulting from the Rena grounding which was New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster and largest shipping litigation.

Michael joined Lowndes as a partner in 2009. He acts for clients in dispute resolution, mediation, arbitration and in all Courts. His practice has an international focus and he regularly receives instructions from overseas clients.

Michael is ranked as a leading lawyer in a number of prominent legal directories. He has been ranked in Band One by Chambers & Partners for a number of years.  He is ranked in Asialaw Profiles in Shipping, Maritime and Aviation; Legal500 in Transport; Legal Media Group’s Expert Guide to the World’s Leading Shipping and Maritime Lawyers and its publication Best of the Best as one of the top 30 shipping lawyers in the world; and the US publication Best Lawyers International.


Main Phone: +64 9 373 3331

Direct Phone: +64 9 373 7713

Mobile: +64 21 646 299


  • Bachelor of Laws – New Zealand
  • Admitted as a Solicitor in England and Wales
  • Maritime Law Association of Australia and New Zealand Limited
  • Aviation Law Association of Australia and New Zealand Limited
  • Chartered Institute of Transport
  • Michael is a LEADER trained and accredited mediator




  • Advised the owners of the containership Rena and its P&I and hull insurers on the many claims and issues arising from the grounding of the ship off the New Zealand coast. He was appointed within a few hours of the grounding. This was the largest maritime incident to have occurred in New Zealand. Work included limitation, oil spill, wreck, salvage, cargo claims, clean up, third party business/cultural claims, negotiations with the New Zealand Government, local government and regulators, criminal prosecutions and environmental issues. This involved appointing and managing a large team of lawyers and external consultants.
  • Advised ship operators/cargo owners and insurers on most types of cargo claims.
  • Advised ship operators and insurers in charterparty arbitrations, charterparty negotiations and claims under contracts of affreightment.
  • Collisions and groundings: Acted for clients in most major high-profile incidents around the New Zealand coast over the last 15 years. This includes vessel/vessel collisions, vessel/wharf collisions, groundings and heavy weather incidents involving damage, loss and injury.
  • Ship recycling: dumping permit for EEZ and/or export offshore (under Basel Convention) for recycling.
  • Admiralty claims: Acted for clients in many admiralty claims, some of which have been significant to the development of the New Zealand admiralty jurisdiction. This work included the 2014 decision involving the cross-border insolvency of Korean shipowner STX and the ship New Giant. Acted for an admiralty claimant against the ship in court proceedings in New Zealand. The Court ordered that the admiralty claimant could continue with its in rem claim against the ship in New Zealand outside of the rehabilitation of STX taking place in Korea. The admiralty claimant was paid in full.
  • Ship/yacht/launch sale and purchase disputes as well as building disputes.
  • Advised freight forwarders and insurers on contractual issues and liability claims.
  • Advised owners of goods/carriers and their insurers on carriage by road and rail.
  • Advised creditors/liquidators in large-scale litigation arising from the collapse of major shipping lines.
  • Represented the owner of a fishing vessel in an investigation under CCAMLR Convention and court action against the Ministry of Fisheries and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOF) for wrongful search, and sought injunction against MOF/New Zealand Government restraining reporting incident under CCLAMLR Convention.
  • Advisory work in maritime area: Advised clients on setting up a shipping line. Carried out a review of all legislation applicable at a port and an analysis of liabilities and insurances, and a pilotage audit. Advised a port company on a marine services contract whereby the port company contracts out of the provision of pilotage and tug services. Reviewed port company terms and conditions for stevedores, shipping lines and agents. Drafted long-term contracts of affreightment for transport of goods, strategic alliances and joint ventures.
  • Ship sale and purchase: advised in more than 20 sales of commercial vessels.
  • Ship building: drafted ship/yacht/launch building contracts.




  • Carriage of goods by air claims, aircraft sale and purchase disputes, claims involving airworthiness certification/maintenance/ repairs to aircraft and related insurance issues. Claim under code share agreement.
  • Acted in major litigation for an international airline defending competition/cartel prosecution against airline (and 11 other airlines) for alleged price fixing of fuel surcharges on cargo (prosecution against 12 airlines in New Zealand and in other jurisdictions).
  • Acted for client in Civil Aviation Authority investigation into high-profile aircraft crash and death of occupants, along with associated claims and insurance issues.




  • Instructed by 120 apartment owners in a Central Auckland apartment building on sale and purchase disputes involving developer, lawyers, bank.
  • Ground rent disputes.
  • Commercial lease disputes: Re-entry by landlord and landlord/tenant disputes.
  • Litigation arising from caveats.


General commercial


  • Cross border litigation.
  • Claims against and representing professionals.
  • Corporate and finance disputes.
  • Contract tort and FTA claims including acting for 10 separate claimants with claims against a pharmaceutical multinational.
  • Torchlight v Wilaci: large claim under off market finance arrangement. The Court of Appeal decision is the leading case on liquidated damages/penalties in commercial contracts.
  • High profile incidents, large scale litigation: Experienced in gathering a team of professionals (internal and external lawyers, technical/financial consultants, communications firm) and managing all providers to achieve the desired outcome.


Michael McCarthy of Lowndes is head of the firm’s shipping practice, and is remarked upon by one market source as “a very strong lawyer” and the “busiest and the best of shipping solicitors.”


Chambers Asia-Pacific 2019

‘Michael McCarthy of Lowndes is praised by his sources for his willingness to be involved and to do what is necessary to achieve the best result possible.’


Chambers Asia-Pacific 2016

‘Michael McCarthy of Lowndes is a leading figure in the market […] “Working with Michael McCarthy was a pleasure and it was very reassuring to know that he was fighting on our behalf,” said one client.’

Chambers Asia-Pacific 2015