The change in ice conditions is opening the high Arctic as a trade route, fishing ground and potential tourism destination; but more infrastructure support is required to facilitate the provision of adequate insurance, says the International Union of Maritime Insurance (IUMI) in a position paper released this week.
Helle Hammer, IUMI’s chair of its policy forum and co-author of the position paper, stated:”The marine insurance sector, like all sectors, wants to see enhanced safety for ships operating in Arctic waters. We would strongly encourage an improved infrastructure to provide the required level of search and rescue capacity alongside suitable places of refuge. We would also like to see updated surveys and more reliable charting of the region. This would assist marine underwriters to quantify the risks involved”.
IUMI’s position paper lists a number of considerations to be taken into account when assessing individual voyage risk. These include regional rescue and salvage facilities, potential places of refuge, expected weather conditions, experience of crew and the operational performance of the vessel itself.
Historical information – due to the current limited number of sailings and constantly changing ice conditions – is not available and this is forcing marine insurers to take a more cautious approach to risk assessment.
Hammer explained:”When assessing risk for insurance purposes, historical loss data is a key factor, and that’s missing for Polar operations. This means that underwriters must assess each voyage on a case-by-case basis. Alongside the availability of suitable infrastructure, IUMI is encouraging insurers to consider the vessel’s Polar Ship Certificate and take into account the vessel operator’s level of preparedness and planning.”
IUMI is an active supporter of the Polar Code (International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters) as a method for lowering the risks associated with Arctic sailings. IUMI would also like to see an instrument in place for non-SOLAS vessels (ships of less than 500 GT, including fishing vessels) to ensure there is a safer regime for all vessels operating in Arctic waters.
IUMI’s position paper comes as a Maersk ship becomes the first containership in history to make a trip along the Northern Sea Route. The 3,600 teu Venta Maersk left Busan in South Korea on Tuesday and is now off Japan bound for Bremerhaven via the Arctic.