Sir David Steel

Sir David Steel is an international commercial arbitrator. He acts as party appointed member of tribunals, chairman and sole arbitrator in international commercial disputes of a wide-ranging subject matter, including sale of goods, banking, insurance and reinsurance, joint ventures, carriage of goods, oil and gas and shipbuilding. He has been appointed in over 240 references leading to over 70 awards.

He has been appointed under the auspices of LCIA, ICC, LMAA,HKIAC, SMCA, KLRCA, Bermuda Form, DIAC etc as well as ad hoc including under UNCITRAL rules. Sir David was called to the Bar in 1966 and had a prestigious career, becoming a judge of the Commercial and Admiralty Courts in 1998, he was Judge in charge from 2004-6. He was Chairman of the European Commercial Judges Forum from 2009-2011.

Sir David was Deputy Chief Justice of the DIFC between 2011 and 2018.


t: +44 (0)20 7583 4444


Judicial Career

  • Judge of the Commercial and Admiralty Courts London: 1998- 2011
  • Judge in charge of the Commercial and Admiralty Courts: 2004-2006
  • Chairman of European Commercial Judges Forum: 2009-2011
  • Deputy Chief Justice of the Dubai International Financial Centre Court: 2011 – present


Career at English Bar

  • Called to the Bar: 1966
  • Commercial law practitioner: 1968-1998
  • Head of chambers at 2/4 Essex Court: 1995-1998
  • Junior counsel to the Treasury: 1978-1981
  • Bencher of Inner Temple: 1995
  • Also appeared in courts of Singapore, Hong Kong, Gibraltar and US.


More Experience

  • Associate of Coudert Brothers New York – 1967 to 1968
  • Presiding Judge of the Western Circuit – 2004 to 2006
  • Member of panel of Lloyd’s Arbitrators – 1990 to 1998
  • Commissioner for Wrecks – 1990 to 1998
  • Conducted Judicial Training in Thailand, Kazakhstan, Abu Dhabi and Dubai
  • Member of the Advisory Committee on Legal Education 1995 to 1998

Professional areas of interest and involvement

Recent Arbitration experience

  • Since 2011 have been appointed arbitrator in over 200 hundred references leading to over 50 awards.
  • Appointments have been variously as party appointed member of tribunals, chairman and sole arbitrator.
  • Appointments have been accepted under auspices of LCIA, ICC, LMAA,HKIAC, SMCA, KLRCA, Bermuda Form, DIAC etc. Other appointments have been made ad hoc including under UNCITRAL rules.
  • Topics have included shipbuilding, insurance (marine and casualty), reinsurance, joint ventures, charterparties, oil and gas, sale of goods

Earlier experience as Judge and Counsel

As counsel appeared in numerous arbitrations and also acted as arbitrator regularly.

Recent decisions

Oil and gas – 
including joint ventures and pollution control.

Shipping – 
Including cargo carriage, ship operation and shipbuilding.
As counsel acted in numerous shipping claims including cargo claims, charterparty disputes, limitation disputes, oil pollution, collisions and salvage as well as wreck inquiries such as those into loss of bulk carrier Derbyshire and capsize of Herald of Free Enterprise

Recent Judicial Decisions

-including underwriting, brokerage and reinsurance.
As counsel instructed in a variety of insurance disputes including the Lloyd’s litigation representing Wellington names, Poland managing agents, and Outhwaite syndicate

Recent decisions

– including carriage by air, overhaul and crash investigation.
As counsel instructed by war risk underwriters in Air India 747 bombing

Recent decisions

Commodities –
including trading in oil, feed and minerals.

Banking – 
including derivative trading, currency futures and compliance

Disaster Investigation – 
including shipping and air casualties, oil pollution.

  • As counsel in Herald of ‘Free Enterprise and Derbyshire’.
  • Instructed by Exxon in Exxon Valdez
  • Acted as chairman of inquiry into loss of trawler Gaul (2004)
  • Trial judge in Buncefield explosion litigation

White Collar Crime

  • As counsel in Ikarian Reefer and in Mundogas v. Armogas


  • FCIArb (Fellow Chartered Institute of Arbitrators)
  • Accredited Mediator (ADR Chambers UK)
  • LCIA (London Court of International Arbitration)
  • LMAA (London Maritime Arbitrators Association – Supporting Member)
  • SCMA (Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration)
  • KLRCA (Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration
  • HKIAC (Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre)
  • Younger Brother of Trinity House
  • Member of the Baltic Exchange


  • Temperley on Merchant Shipping Acts
  • Kennedy on Salvage

Related News & Events

  • 08/12/17
    Sir David Steel to speak at Quadrant Chambers International Arbitration Event
    read more