bradskelton.com theshippingbloke.com

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Is marine cargo insurance essential?

I was talking to a Depth Logistics client yesterday who has asked us to ship a container of parts for her.

As is our standard operating procedure, I asked her whether she had marine insurance cover for the shipment? She told me that they wouldn't worry on this shipment as it wasn't big enough...or in translation to me, not worth enough that if it were lost or damaged there would be a serious financial impact on their company.

To most people it would seem commercially astute to save the small cost of an insurance premium where they believe the risk of loss or damage to their cargo is negligible. Sound logic if it were just the cargo that is at risk but it isn't!

Centuries of maritime law precedents have established an entirely different principle that make it important to have marine transit cover in place on even the seemingly small and low risk shipments. Shipping has numerous uncontrollable risks at sea and is inherently a high risk activity for any business.

Maritime law tends to side with the ship owner whether you like it or not. Most people don't realise that when they ship their cargo on any ship for a particular voyage then at law, they are considered to be in a joint venture for that voyage. What this means for shippers is that should the vessel get into distress, suffer a mishap, be forced to jettison cargo to save the ship, be lost at sea or hypothetically require salvage to remove it from a shipping channel then each shipper with cargo on board proportionately shares in these costs. That is the spirit of a joint venture after all and maritime law precedents support this regardless of fault or blame.



Therefore cargo even with a low value can end up costing the shipper a literal fortune for their share of costs incurred to deal with the mishap properly. In my career there was one occasion where a client had a single container on a ship that ran aground in a shipping channel. The vessel had to be cut up at sea and removed from the channel as it presented a risk to other vessels and the environment. My client got a bill in the region of $400,000 for their share of costs even though their cargo was worth only a fraction of this. Had they not taken been prudent enough to ask me to take out marine insurance for them this would have been a ruinous event for their company.

So you should ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS...(have I shouted it enough?) ALWAYS have marine cargo insurance. It is false economy not to.

Feel free to contact me or my team if you would like some free advice on this critical aspect of shipping.

All for now,

+Brad Skelton 


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