WORKING ALL OVER
Risk management and troubleshooting by Marine Underwriting
We believe that marine insurance is more than just paper and money transfers.
Our goal is to support our business partners in practical terms and assist when it really matters. On a global basis we go where we are needed.
Germany. A Bremen based freight forwarder receives bad news in between Christmas and New Year´s Eve celebrations. He is called upon to pay a significantly higher insurance premium for the upcoming year. Therefore, the freight forwarder approaches an established broker for a counter-offer, only until the cutoff date. The broker gets in touch with us – he knows Lampe & Schwartze Marine Underwriting is in the position to
submit a competitive quotation promptly. Later that day we are in a meeting with the broker to discuss the policy´s basic information. On our way back our office receives the relevant information to set up the insurance consortium. That same day we are able to present to the broker an insurance cover with a competitive premium. Happy New Year! Before New Year´s Eve the insurance policy is signed.
Germany. We are inspecting a delivery of cocoa from Côte d’Ivoire that has just arrived. One of our employees developed a new system for the transport of the valuable beans that is intended to solve a major problem of cocoa shipping: Condensation. Up to 75% of the bags inside the container are moist when they arrive at the port of destination. The goods are not usable due to the moisture, but drying them takes time and is costly. After extensive research, our employee developed an alternative
for the dry bags that have been used — albeit not very effectively — all over the world: Cardboard placed inside the container when it is loaded that protects the bags from the condensation on the container walls. The chemistry involved is complex, but the result is remarkable: Condensation is reduced by a significant percentage and the bags arrive at their destination virtually dry. Our client, a global exporter, has one less problem to worry about.
India. A global commodity trader has a problem with his regular transports of unrefined sugar across Southeast Asia: A significant part of the 50,000 tons of goods loaded every time does not reach the desired destination. The case is quite complicated — the cargo passes through several ports and countries on its journey, and frequent transshipments complicate the search for evidence. Our local Director of the Marine Underwriting branch in India attends to the matter personally and inspects every port and every reloading point that the sugar passes through. Because he has been piloting ships and carrying cargo in this region for many years, he knows the practices at the ports and the
situation on site. In addition, he speaks the locals’ language and understands their mentality and working methods. It takes about a week and a good measure of detective work, before the captain has identifies the weak points and can take appropriate countermeasures: At one of the ports, an external observer is now monitoring the trans-shipment, at another one the trucks transporting the sugar 30 km to the weighing stations are being numbered and sealed. In addition, aligning the measurement methods and using new equipment in several ports yields more precise data. As a result, the loss is already down to a minimum with the next transport. Aye, aye, Captain!
Canada. A problem in a North American port: One of our clients’ cargo from China arrives in North America damaged, yet again. Part of the goods — 50,000 tons of steel products for the gas industry — are heavily damaged and can no longer be installed. Two days later, we arrive at the port and inspect the damage. In several discussions with all the parties involved in the logistics chain, the cause is identified: The shipper had stacked the products in such a way that the bottom layers were subject to excessive pressure. Additional discussions with the shipping company
ensue: Which alternative ways of stowing are feasible and economically viable? Together, we come up with a solution that reduces the damage to zero: Now the steel products can arrive in Canada undamaged.
As with numerous other cases, there is no protocol, no default solution. Expertise, experience, and discussions produce practical solutions that are suitable for everyday use and solve the problems that would otherwise cause considerable financial loss.
Eastern Europe. We have been providing an agricultural producer located in Eastern Europe with tailor-made insurance solutions for many years. The contact is well established and personal — the exporter and his contacts in Bremen call each other regularly and meet on site on a yearly basis to inspect the production facilities. When the armed conflict broke out in Ukraine in 2014, we reacted instantly. Together with highly renowned security analysts, we analyzed the political situation as quickly
as possible, and prepared a risk analysis for the client’s location: Was it likely that the region would be directly affected by the conflict? The answer — “highly unlikely” —gave both our client and the companies associated with us the reassurance they needed. Thinking ahead, acting proactively, and going that one step further than expected: That is how we do it here at Marine Underwriting.
Africa. One of our clients is stranded at an African port with a shipload of coffee. When the container ship enters the port, a navigation error causes it to hit two container cranes — one of them sinks, the other one is severely damaged. The cranes’ owners demand a EUR 12 million security deposit before they allow the ship to depart. In the negotiations with the affected parties, the lawyers of the British ship-owner strike the wrong chord and demonstrate little sensitivity for the local mentality. The situation is messy. We travel to Nigeria on behalf of the charterer (and equipped with the ship-owner’s power of attorney) to get an overview of the situation. As the cranes earned approx. EUR 20,000 daily Prior to the
collision, the owners are under immense pressure and demand a quick but effective solution. Together with our local partners, we arrange for the repair and replacement respectively of the cranes within a few days — for significantly less than the original claim.
Establishing trust on site, showing understanding for the particular situation, providing know-how, and speaking plainly and clearly — this is the way to resolve situations that appear almost hopeless from a distance.
Southwest Asia. One of our clients transports steel pipes from a European supplier to Southwest Asia for the construction of a gas pipeline. Nothing spectacular, but there is one serious problem. Shortly before shipping, it is still not certain who will lay the pipeline and take delivery of the goods at the port of Abu Dhabi. Consequently, the cargo with a total value of USD 180 million will have to be warehoused at the port for an indefinite period of time. We anticipate the client´s needs and with ample time expand his coverage. I.e. to include relatively unlikely,
but potentially serious risks such as earthquakes or underwater earthquakes. And that is not all: Together with our experts on site, we visit the port area and inspect suitable warehouses with our own eyes. We speak with the people responsible, review safety standards, and gather information until we get a complete and clear picture. When the ships reach the port, both the coverage and the warehousing are totally provided for.
USA. Trouble at a North American port: The container ship of a distressed Eastern European shipping company docked there, is arrested because the crew has not been paid and has gone on strike. The cargo includes 6,000 tons of steel from a European manufacturer we are working with for many years. The dilemma: If the goods do not arrive at the final destination in one week, there would be severe customs penalties due. We are on the ground the very next day, starting negotiations with the competent lawyers in Eastern Europe and USA and the shipping company itself. The objective: raising the money required for the crew’s wages and other outstanding payments as quickly and seamlessly as possible in order to get the ship released. Time was of the essence - otherwise the ship will not make the journey on time. Using the time difference to our advantage, the money — advanced by the owner of the cargo — arrives on time. However, further mediation is required on board: The captain
antagonizes the crew by refusing to give them cigarettes because they cannot pay for them due to the unpaid wages. Solving this problem requires good crisis management skills and a lot of persuasion. What’s more, the ship’s engine and pump are broken, and we replace them — following some complicated discussions in the engine room — all within 24 hours. In the meantime, and to make matters worse, the shipping company’s agent at the port of call resigns due to unpaid invoices! More late night phone calls and express wire transfers are necessary. Following an urgent maneuver, the ship is turned around and finally continues its journey.
The deadline was midnight on Sunday: The declaration is completed two hours before. Against the odds, we did it!
South America. As one of the key partners in the global coffee trade, we are on site on the plantations and at the warehouses and ports in Central America, Africa and Asia on a regular basis. We maintain long-standing working relationships with the players on the global markets, often for decades. But relationships with the locals are just as important — we know many of the small and large coffee traders in Vietnam, Indonesia, Tanzania and Brazil. When the cooperation proves successful, mutual trust develops — like with one of our clients in in South America. A single road leads to the coast and the nearest port, where large quantities of coffee are shipped out. When, several years ago, a landslide blocked
this road for weeks on end, something needed to be done quickly. It is the middle of the peak season, the warehouses are full, but the coffee cannot be transported to the port. One of our clients suggests an alternative warehouse for approx. 10,000 tons of coffee and needs appropriate coverage, preferably immediately. No problem: We have been working together without problems for years and trust each other. In this time of global trading and increasingly complex and impersonal business relationships, mutual trust and personal contact are immensely valuable — and often crucial — assets of an underwriting agency.
Iran. When a fire in a cotton warehouse in Iran destroys the goods of one of our clients, we survey the situation on site ourselves. The vast terminals house cotton with a value of up to EUR 400 million, but it turns out that the fire protection is less than adequate. The fire brigade consisted of a tractor with a 5000 L tank — which is better suited for watering plants and washing cars, but not sufficient for an open-air terrain of several acres. Furthermore, cotton burns very fast; once one of the terminals catches fire, all is lost within twenty minutes. Together with
the operators of the warehouse, we initiate comprehensive safety measures. A company in Germany develops a fire truck to our specifications, which corresponds to the requirements on side and can be anywhere on the premises within 180 seconds. Watchtowers are constructed and new hydrants installed, the number of staff is significantly increased and trained to patrol the terminals at all times — because the scent of burning cotton is so strong that one’s nose is a highly efficient fire alarm.
Germany. At the start of the German wind industry and building of wind power plants offshore, we were part of the adventure from the beginning. When it comes to breaking new grounds and developing unprecedented insurance solutions, we are there! For example in transporting wind power plants. With the quick, uncomplicated and practical approach we connect brokers, transporters and installation companies to insurance companies guaranteeing end-to-end coverage. Often respective risks
are of large-volume and hard to insure by only one insurer. Nevertheless we are able to provide brokers with one single contact partner – due to the fact that as an underwriting agency we are underwriting risks on behalf of and with special power of attorney for 28 national and international insurance companies. We are syndicating the risk. Hence one contact person, a single contract, one premium.
France. It is the Tour de France of sailing: Every four years during the Vendée Globe a small group of the world´s best skipper circumnavigate the world. This regatta for solo sailors leads 24.000 nautical miles along the Antarctic Ocean. It is deemed to be the toughest regatta for solo sailors.
We have a burning passion for nautical matters. That´s why we insure 30 of those mono-hull ships, valued at up to 10 million Euros.
Usually only half of the initial started skippers finish the race. Dismasting and technical issues often force skippers to give up but the biggest threat are UFO’s (undefined floating objects). These can be lost items i.e. containers from larger commercial vessels, floating shortly below the
water surface, which are often recognized by the skippers too late.
On the 6th December 2016 a completely different body took out a French skipper. In the middle of the Indian Ocean his ship rammed into the world´s biggest predator: a sperm whale! Video recordings on board show the giant animal continuing its journey after the collision. The skipper´s life was in danger because his ship was no longer able to float. Not a moment too soon, he was rescued by a French supply vessel.
In this case, the precious ship could not be salvaged but in other situations we were able to recover the ship. For example that same year when a skipper had to give up due to a broken hip. Approximately four weeks later we managed to rappel another skipper from a helicopter onto the drifting ship at the English coast. He was able to sail it to the nearest harbor.
Germany. The energy revolution at its peak: Several years ago, a worldwide operating logistics company transports 30 tripods from the manufacturing plant to the pier. Followed by the transport out to the sea where an offshore wind farm was built. It´s not a long way but the foundations are tall and heavy: Each tripod measures 30 meters in height and weighs 700 tons. We project the short but risky voyage together with all involved parties: Through the use of spmt´s (self-propelled modular transporters), train transport and specifically built pontoons we are
able to carry out the shipment to an offshore terminal which was especially solidified. Our engineers support the client from the beginning, detect additional risk and in this sense made a substantial contribution to assure a smooth transport to the temporary storage facility. We are also there during the following voyage to the offshore wind farm – we provide the H&M cover for the jack-up vessels, which carry the tripods to their destination and raise the wind power plant.