The marine insurance market in 2006
Everything is all right!?
THE 2005 HURRICANE SEASON WAS THE WORST ON RECORD, with 14 hurricanes causing billions of dollars in insured losses and around three million claims, all record highs.
The total loss of the Bombay High platform, though not related to hurricane, was a notable major loss to the industry in 2005. July 27, 2005, in one of the worst disasters in the history of India's petroleum industry, the Bombay High North oil drilling platform owned by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation was totally destroyed following a collision with a mobile offshore unit. It claimed 11 lives and 12 people are missing. Insured losses amounted to about $350 million (of which $195 million for the platform alone).
Katrina came at a time when overall marine insurance rates started to decrease. Catastrophe modeller Risk Management Solutions said insured losses from hurricane Katrina could range from $40 to $60 billion. This hurricane is the most expensive event in the history of insurance and its impact on the insurance industry: bigger than anticipated.
Re-insurers that sustained a significant reduction in their margins through large hurricane losses in both property and marine departments have opted to withdraw from any marine business that includes exposure to the US Gulf coast. Although a few insurers have maintained substantial exposure for the remainder of the year, their appetite in terms of line size and capacity has been reduced.
Lloyd's List reported on January 4, 2006 that in the North Sea, Middle East and elsewhere, energy premium rises are averaging about 20 %. Oil installations in the storm-bedevilled Gulf of Mexico have paid premiums 200 % to 300 % higher in the current round.
So what about the marine insurance market in 2005?
THE HULL AND MACHINERY MARKET
All these catastrophes have fuelled discussions concerning the possible increase in rates so eagerly awaited by hull insurers. At the beginning of 2005, the market was trading at a discount, creating concerns amongst insurers who, since the period of 1997-1998, have not been achieving satisfactory results.
Due to the aforementioned disasters, as well as notably the concern over the effects that they may have on the reinsurance costs put forward for maritime insurers for the 1st January 2006, general increases began to appear around October. However, this tension was quick to subside and the market stabilised towards the end of the year. Despite this, hull insurers looked for ways of implementing increases of between 2.5 and 10 % on renewals demonstrating satisfactory technical results, but in the end, many reinstated their reported unchanged premiums of 2004.
It is, however, important to note the significant increase in navigational accidents (strandings, collisions, etc.) often blamed on new ships (containerships, tankers) belonging to owners who have benefited from excellent freight rates in order to substantially expand their fleets, without necessarily having the adequate human resources. These events are creating increasingly expensive damages, for which the level of the average premium noted on the market does not allow insurers to balance their risk exposure.
Significant rises in premiums have been reported for shipowners having undergone such events (along with indemnities maturing from $ 2 to 30 million). Increases of 20 % have frequently been noted as well as some major clients boasting increases of more than 100 %.
However, the responses of the Hull and Machinery markets differ according to the region.
Scandinavian insurers (members of CEFOR) seem to have been amongst the most competitive, and over the past 2 to 3 years have significantly raised their market share. The reasons for this success seem to rest upon:
the willingness that came in the early years of the new millennium to expand their market share from the present until 2010, in accordance with the principle: 'twenty five in twenty ten' (having a market share of 25 % by 2010!),
the fact of having succeeded in expanding significantly their 'Loss of hire' (LOH) and ''Increased values' (IV) portfolios, which over the past 2 or 3 years have proven to be very profitable, UK insurers having lost very significant market shares, while other markets have not demonstrated any real ambition to subscribe to these types of risks,
the arrival or evolution of companies such as Bluewater or NEMI, has certainly contributed to an increase in competition.
However, the technical results of the CEFOR members are fragile:
they are often very dependent on reinsurers, small sized and, for many, dependent on the maritime insurance sector only, which can contribute to a certain level of instability.
Insurance companies from Japan (primarily Mitsui-Sumitomo and Tokyo-Marine) or Korea (Samsung) have equally contributed greatly to the heightened ferocity of international competition. They have proven themselves to be extremely competitive in pre-selected business, also helping to limit any possibilities of increases sought after by UK, American or occasionally French insurers.
It would seem, however, that the technical results of the international business of these companies, who all exhibit excellent financial stability, are not particularly impressive, which will probably push them into showing less aggressiveness in 2006.
The French market has globally preserved its market share and the dominant leaders, namely AXA Corporate Solutions, Groupama Transport, Allianz Marine & Aviation and Generali France, maintain an important role, either as leaders or as 'followers'. The companies of this market offer an important underwriting capacity, first-class security, a very well appreciated service, therefore enabling them to compete internationally especially for business involving technical criteria of the highest standards!
The UK market had begun 2005 with a record capacity, leading one to believe that Lloyds was on the verge of regaining the market share they had lost in recent years. Natural disasters and other major events that occurred in 2005 particularly disrupted the market, with investors now preferably investing in the areas showing better potential for profit. Even if the number of insurers has reduced on a global scale, the UK market still remains the world's biggest market, notably due to its flexibility and the power of its network of brokers.
MARINE CARGO INSURANCE
Transport ' cargo insurance: as revealed by analysts at the IUMI conference in Amsterdam this year, underwriters have secured a fair level of profitability, and the capacity available has increased substantially.
If the market is still orientated on 'as expiring' conditions, for specific targets, with excellent loss records, significant decreases may be obtained, pushing the overall market premium down. Overall, the reliable average figure is minus 5 %.
Due to the number of players involved, we do not anticipate another hardening of the market in the coming months as a result of Katrina, even if some insurers and reinsurers have been substantially affected. The increase of reinsurance costs, if any, may have a very limited impact on the direct market in the near future.
THE JOINT WAR COMMITTEE'S DECISIONS
The Joint War Committee, which represents the London marine insurance industry and includes members of both the Lloyd's Market Association and the International Underwriting Association, issued a new list of risky areas for navigation around the world in June 2005. The main changes were to remove a dozen countries from the list, mainly from the Middle East and West Africa, and to add the Straits of Malacca, the southern Gulf of Thailand and parts of southern Philippines.
The Aegis report stated that there had been intensification in the weaponry and that techniques used by the pirates in the Straits are now largely indistinguishable from terrorists'.
Regarding the specific question of the inclusion of the Malacca Straits on the list, the JWC affirmed that this area would remain on the list until it was clear that the measures planned by the government and other agencies in the area had been implemented and were effective.
Shipowners seem to have had some objections to the higher premiums they had to pay resulting from the labelling of some areas as 'war risk areas'. Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia asked the JWC to reconsider its decision, while the Singapore Shipping Association said the risk assessment was based on a 'fundamental misunderstanding' of piracy and terrorism threats in the Malacca Straits.
As far as the results of the 2004/2005 financial year are concerned the most significant factor was probably the continuing increase in paid claims levels throughout the year. The upward trend in claims is seen at both financial year and policy year levels: 2004/2005 policy year claims being 14.5 % higher than the equivalent in 2003/2004 claims. Even allowing for a 5 % increase in entered tonnage, this supports the contention that freight rate booms generate increased P&I claims.
Premiums rose by a slightly greater margin than paid claims, which in turn improved the operating result for the market. The operating deficit was still not eliminated, but it was reduced to less than $ 23 million.
Albeit marginal, 2004/05 represents the tenth consecutive year of overall 'net' operating deficits for the market. The main changes occurred in 2005 in the International Group are the following:
Individual Club retention increased from $ 5 million to $ 6 million.
Charterers' liability limit reached a $ 350 million combined single limit.
P&I war risks limit increased from $ 400 million to $ 500 million.
The renewal in total money terms represented in essence an 'as expiry' offer from the reinsurance market.
Due to the increase in overall insured tonnage, reductions in rate per gt achieved on all classes of ship, other than passenger vessels, were modest.
VUS voyage additional premiums were reduced by 7.5 %.
Fixed premium P&I market
The most notable developments in the fixed premium P&I market in 2005 were: 1) the agreement by QBE Insurance Group (QBE) to buy British Marine, 2) the decision taken by (Markel) Terra Nova to phase out cargo ships from its portfolio and 3) the withdrawal of AXA Corporate Solutions from the liability market.
At the end of November 2005, AXA made the following announcement: 'In 1999 we decided to launch a new P&I activity based on a possible liberalisation of the regulatory framework governing this particular industry. As this liberalisation did not materialise we have decided with regret, given our reduced prospects both in the short and medium term, to cease with immediate effect the further underwriting of the P&I product which represents 0.5 % of our overall activity'.
Nowadays, insurers such as British Marine, Navigators, Osprey, and Terra Nova concentrate on seeking business from the operators of smaller, more specialized ships, many of whom didn't have full P&I cover in the past nor did they need the huge limit of cover provided by the Group clubs such as smaller blue and brown water vessels for example, supply boats, tugs and barges, diving support vessels, depending on the environment and area in which they operate.
The main priority in today's price driven market is for marine underwriters to prove that they are able to satisfy their shareholders' profit requirements, whilst offering a stable product to their clients' base.
In the future, there is no alternative to the International Group clubs for large ocean going cargo ships. The primacy of the clubs is reinforced and the economic argument that a mutual must be cheaper in the long term seems to be proven.
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What stands out from 2005 and the beginning of 2006 is that the maritime insurance market still rests principally on the ''supply and demand'' relationship, and does so despite the effects of ''technical and financial'' factors, such as:
the increase in reinsurance costs, but also the cost of ship repairs,
the number and extent of natural disasters and maritime accidents,
the increase in the levels of responsibility held by the players of the maritime world, and in the number of litigations,
the pressure of financiers (shareholders or rating agencies) who are trying to push the market towards greater profitability.
The coming year is thus presenting itself with better omens for assured' as long as there will be enough maritime insurers!
Shipping and Shipbuilding Markets in 2005
I N D E X