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Allianz: losses remain at historic lows, but challenges loom
(Posted on 04/08/21)
The international shipping industry continued its long-term positive safety trend over the past year but has to master Covid challenges, apply the learnings from the Ever Given Suez Canal incident and prepare for cyber and climate change challenges ahead. The number of large vessels lost remained at record low levels in 2020, while reported incidents declined year-on-year, according to marine insurer Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty SE’s (AGCS) Safety & Shipping Review 2021.
“The shipping sector has shown great resilience through the coronavirus pandemic, as evidenced by strong trade volumes and the recovery we are seeing in several parts of the industry today,” says Captain Rahul Khanna, Global Head of Marine Risk Consulting at AGCS. “Total losses are at historic low levels for the third year running. However, it is not all smooth sailing. The ongoing crew crisis, the increasing number of issues posed by larger vessels, growing concerns around supply chain delays and disruptions, as well as complying with environmental targets, bring significant risk management challenges for ship owners and their crews.”
The annual AGCS study analyzes reported shipping losses and casualties (incidents) over 100 gross tons. During 2020, 49 total losses of vessels were reported globally, similar to a year earlier (48) and the second lowest total this century. This represents a 50% decline over 10 years (98 in 2011). The number of shipping incidents declined from 2,818 to 2,703 in 2020 (by 4%). There have been more than 870 shipping losses over the past decade.
The South China, Indochina, Indonesia and Philippines maritime region remains the global loss hotspot, accounting for one in every three losses in 2020 (16) with incidents up year-on-year. Cargo ships (18) account for more than a third of vessels lost in the past year and 40% of total losses over the past decade. Foundered (sunk/submerged) was the main cause of total losses over the past year, accounting for one in two vessels. Machinery damage/failure was the top cause of shipping incidents globally, accounting for 40%.
Despite the devastating economic impact of Covid-19, the effect on maritime trade has been less than first feared. Global seaborne trade volumes are on course to surpass 2019 levels this year after declining slightly in 2020. However, the recovery remains volatile. Covid-19-related delays at ports and shipping capacity management problems have led to congestion at peak times and a shortage of empty containers. In June 2021, it was estimated there was a record 300 freighters waiting to enter overcrowded ports. The time container ships are spending waiting for port berths has more than doubled since 2019.
The crew change situation on vessels is a humanitarian crisis which continues to affect the health and wellbeing of seafarers. In March 2021, it was estimated some 200,000 seafarers remained on board vessels unable to be repatriated due to Covid-19 restrictions. Extended periods at sea can lead to mental fatigue and poor decision-making, which ultimately impact safety. There have already been shipping incidents which have featured crews who have been on board for longer than they should have. Seafarer training is suffering, while attracting new talent is problematic given working conditions. Future crew shortages could impact the surge in demand for shipping as international trade rebounds.
Although Covid-19 has resulted in limited direct marine claims to date, the sector has not been spared significant loss activity. “Overall, the frequency of marine claims has not reduced. We are also seeing an increased cost of hull and machinery claims due to delays in the manufacture and delivery of spare parts, as well as a squeeze on available shipyard space,” says Justus Heinrich, Global Product Leader, Marine Hull, at AGCS. “Costs associated with salvage and repairs have also increased.” In future, insurers could potentially see an uptick in machinery breakdown claims if Covid-19 has affected crews’ ability to carry out maintenance or follow manufacturers’ protocols.
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