Annual reviews

Annual Summary 2020/21

Wednesday, 27th January 2021

Chairman statement

I am delighted to see the way that the Group has weathered the COVID-19 storm in 2020 and is coming out in 2021 with renewed focus on how sustainability within Clubs and the marine insurance industry generally, can help to support our shipowner members in a changing environment. I have also been heartened to see how the Group’s data collection exercises on Pilotage incidents over a 20 year period see report here and shortly on enclosed spaces may help improve safety for seafarers and reduce incidents in the future. Utilisation of Group claims data to support safety at sea and protection of the marine environment is certainly an area we will be focussing more on going forward. Other data collections exercises across the Group show that the Group continues to cover liability risks for between 90-95% of the global shipping fleet.

The 13 Group Clubs all moved seamlessly to working virtually whilst continuing their collective efforts at Group level. There were a record number of virtual meetings in the autumn helping to drive the Group’s work in so many areas to support our shipowner members. Whilst missing the personal contact which is so much a part of the industry, I have been particularly impressed by the resilience of the industry and the Group in the face of adversity and its role in supporting global trade, which is often underestimated. 

Pool Claims were challenging in the first half of 2020/21 reaching high levels but it remains to be seen how losses develop in the second half of the policy year.  What remains clear however is that the strong pooling arrangements have proved continuously resilient and helped Group Clubs to pay the innocent victims and restore the marine environment, as evidenced on the largest maritime claims, such as the ongoing GOLDEN RAY wreck removal. 

The Group is continuing to examine how to enhance its role in support of the shipping industry and by working together the Group Clubs can collectively help our shipowner members recover from 2020 and build a prosperous and sustainable shipping industry in 2021.

Paul Jennings


CEO statement

2020 has been a year unlike any other. From a shipping industry perspective our thoughts first turn to seafarers, many of whom have been stranded on their ships, unable to get home despite the best efforts of IMO, ICS and other industry associations, including the Group, to encourage governments to recognise the importance of seafarers in keeping global trade and supply chains operational.  Those efforts are ongoing, particularly with regard to seafarers being prioritised for early vaccination.

Thanks in no small part to those seafarers, the shipping industry is emerging into 2021 in a resilient way.  Back in January 2020 we talked about how Brexit, global trade uncertainty, the escalation of sanctions in the maritime sector and an increasing focus on environmental issues such as the impact of IMO 2020 on sulphur emissions, might cause disruption in 2021. Little did we know that the shipping industry would have to adapt overnight as a result of the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Group has always been responsive and innovative in the face of the ever-changing needs of shipowners and whilst the underlying three core objects of the Group remain largely unchanged from the original concept there have been some other key areas of focus for the Group over the last 12 months:

  • COVID-19 has had a significant effect on the cruise industry but otherwise average freight rates for shipowners were consistent in most respects with 2019 (2% down year on year overall) (source: Clarksons), with freight carried reaching about 96% of expected levels.
  • With support from the Group’s long-term partners in the reinsurance world, the Group Pooling and GXL Reinsurance contract structure has now been successfully renewed for the 2021/2 policy year with rates only marginally up, providing some measure of stability and comfort to shipowners.  Having looked at the long term records of different vessels types a decision was made to add a fifth category, splitting Fully Cellular Container vessels away from other Dry vessels; and that there should be an adjustment to reflect the improved record on Persistent Oil Tankers. See press release here
  • As to the headwinds in the global economy, the US/China situation remains a concern for the facilitation of global trade, but we await with interest to see how the incoming Biden administration will approach sanctions in 2021.
  • The sustainability of marine insurance, and the shipping industry generally, in a more environmentally sensitive world is going to be a key issue for the Group going forward and the Group will support shipowners as they navigate the transition to new fuels and the global move to decarbonise.
  • As big data and digitalisation drives greater efficiency the Group will use its collective expertise to help shipowners to develop a safety focussed and quality driven approach to the innovations and new systems driving change in the industry. By way of example the Group has approved 6 electronic bills of lading platforms and has several more under consideration.

A final word.  We ran a series of webinars to Group Club correspondents in Latin America in 2020 which were extremely well attended and proved that the International Group “family” extends so much wider than its constituent Clubs.  We are extremely grateful for the Correspondents’ continued support as we strive to solve shipowners’ liability issues and keep global trade moving around the world every day of the year.   

Nick Shaw

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