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Climate Change and Its Impact on Marine Insurance

The maritime industry, an integral part of global commerce, is undergoing significant changes due to the impacts of climate change. As the frequency and intensity of storms increase, coastal infrastructure, including shipyards and harbors, faces heightened risks. The insurance sector, which underpins the maritime industry, is grappling with these evolving challenges and is actively seeking ways to adapt.

One of the most pressing concerns is the increasing unpredictability of weather patterns. As mentioned in a recent discussion with Mark H. Gleason, “the insurance industry has become much more aware of climate change in the past few decades.” The increasing frequency and intensity of storms, coupled with the impacts on coastal infrastructure, have made it imperative for insurance providers to reassess their risk models. Traditional underwriting methods, based on historical data, may no longer be sufficient. The industry must now consider future scenarios, factoring in the potential impacts of a changing climate.

Understanding the Marine Insurance Landscape

Marine insurance, contrary to popular belief, is far from mundane. Rooted in centuries of history, from the tales of Lloyd’s in London to the role it played during the Revolutionary War, marine insurance has been a cornerstone of global commerce. However, as Mark, a seasoned marine insurance professional, points out, the industry faces challenges in attracting the younger generation. As the current generation of maritime professionals nears retirement, there’s a pressing need to attract younger talent to the industry. This “graying of the fleet” or “silver tsunami” is a concern not just for ship operators but also for marine insurers. A vibrant and skilled maritime workforce is essential for the continued viability of the marine insurance industry.

The Impact of Climate Change

One of the most pressing concerns for marine insurance today is climate change. The increasing frequency and intensity of storms, coupled with rising sea levels, have had a profound impact on coastal infrastructure. This has led to higher claims, prompting insurance companies to be more discerning in their risk assessments.

The changing climate has also affected fisheries. For instance, the crab fisheries in the Bering Sea on the U.S. side were closed this year, largely due to climate-related factors. This has a cascading effect on the marine insurance industry. If fisheries close, vessels can’t operate, impacting the revenue needed to pay insurance premiums.

Navigating the Future

The maritime world is evolving, with new propulsion techniques and materials emerging. From electric docks to carbon fiber boats, the industry is witnessing a shift. However, these new technologies bring with them a new set of risks. For insurance professionals, understanding these risks is paramount. As Mark mentions, while the risks associated with traditional diesel engines are well-known, alternative fuels and developing technologies present a new challenge.

Furthermore, collaboration and communication within the marine industry are essential. Organizations like the Washington Maritime Federation aim to address common issues and promote the industry to attract the youth. Educational programs, such as the Core Plus Maritime curriculum, are also being introduced in high schools to prepare students for maritime careers.

The marine insurance industry, while rooted in tradition, is at a crossroads. The challenges posed by climate change, coupled with the need to understand new technologies, make it an exciting time for the industry. For those considering a career in marine insurance, the field offers a unique blend of history, challenge, and opportunity. As the maritime world continues to evolve, so too will the insurance industry, ensuring that it remains a vital part of global commerce.

Interview with Mark – Maritime Risk Management in Focus

Merrill Charette

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