Though large shipping losses are at a record low, having fallen by over 20% year-on-year, marine insurer Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty SE (AGCS) warns that the coronavirus crisis could endanger the industry’s long-term safety improvements, as difficult operating conditions and a sharp economic downturn present a unique set of challenges.
“Coronavirus has struck at a difficult time for the maritime industry as it seeks to reduce its emissions, navigates issues such as climate change, political risks and piracy, and deals with ongoing problems such as fires on vessels,” says Baptiste Ossena, Global Product Leader Hull Insurance, AGCS. “Now the sector also faces the task of operating in a very different world, with the uncertain public health and economic implications of the pandemic.”
In its Safety & Shipping Review 2020, AGCS analyzes reported losses of ships over 100 gross tons (GT) and also identifies 10 challenges of the coronavirus crisis for the shipping industry which could impact safety and risk management.
In 2019, 41 total losses of vessels were reported around the world, down from 53 12 months earlier. This represents an approximate 70% decline over 10 years and is a result of sustained efforts in the areas of regulation, training and technological advancement, among others. More than 950 shipping losses have been reported since the start of 2010.
The shipping industry has continued to operate through the COVID-19 pandemic, despite disruption at ports and to crew changes. While any reduction in sailings due to coronavirus restrictions could see loss activity fall in the interim, the report highlights 10 challenges that could heighten risks. Among these are:
- The inability to change crews is impacting the welfare of seafarers, which could lead to an increase in human error on board vessels.
- Disruption of essential maintenance and servicing heightens the risk of machinery damage, which is already one of the major causes of insurance claims.
- Reduced or delayed statutory surveys and port inspections could lead to unsafe practices or defective equipment being undetected.
- Cargo damage and delay are likely as supply chains come under strain.
- The ability to respond quickly to an emergency could also be compromised with consequences for major incidents which are dependent on external support.
- The growing number of cruise ships and oil tankers in lay-up around the world poses significant financial exposures, due to the potential threat from extreme weather, piracy or political risks.
“Shipowners also face additional cost pressures from a downturn in the economy and trade,” says Captain Rahul Khanna, Global Head of Marine Risk Consulting at AGCS. “We know from past downturns that crew and maintenance budgets are among the first areas that can be cut and this can impact the safe operations of vessels and machinery, potentially causing damage or breakdown, which in turn can lead to groundings or collisions. It is crucial that safety and maintenance standards are not impacted by any downturn.”
TOP LOSS LOCATIONS AND SHIP TYPES
According to the report, the South China, Indochina, Indonesia and Philippines maritime region remains the top loss location with 12 vessels in 2019 and 228 vessels over the past decade – one in four of all losses. High levels of trade, busy shipping lanes, older fleets, typhoon exposure, and safety issues on some domestic ferry routes are contributing factors. However, in 2019, losses declined for the second successive year. The Gulf of Mexico (4) and the West African Coast (3) rank second and third.
Cargo ships (15) accounted for more than a third of vessels lost in the past year, while foundered (sunk/submerged) was the main cause of all total losses, accounting for three in four (31). Bad weather accounted for one in five losses. Issues with car carriers and roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) vessels remain among the biggest safety issues. Total losses involving RO/RO vessels are up year-on-year, as well as smaller incidents (up by 20%) – a trend continuing through 2020.
“The rise in number and severity of claims on RO/RO vessels is concerning. Ro-ros can be more exposed to fire and stability issues than other vessels,” says Khanna. “Many have quick turnarounds in port and a number of accident investigations have revealed that pre-sail away stability checks were either not carried out as required, or were based on inaccurate cargo information. Too many times commercial considerations have endangered vessels and crews and it is vital that this is addressed on shore and on board.”
Download the full report HERE