The use of data and technology in the marine insurance industry has taken great forward steps in the last decade. In an industry often portrayed as being more comfortable with tradition rather than disruption, there is a realisation that the vast amount of information available out there has huge value – if properly harnessed.
There are two key areas where we in North’s loss prevention department have really embraced the use of technology by partnering with innovative and forward-thinking companies.
The first concerns how we as an insurer can best assess the risk of the vessels we cover and any potential new business. Traditionally, we used simple, but nonetheless effective, metrics such as historic claims performance and regulatory compliance performance (such as port State control inspection deficiencies and detentions) to help us evaluate the risk a vessel, a fleet or an operator presents.
These are still great indicators and we continue to rely on them. But harnessing the huge amounts of real-time shipping data available can tell us more. For example, AIS data, which tracks vessels all around the world, when coupled with casualty and claims data, can identify higher risk operations and trades. Therefore, we have partnered with Concirrus to develop an analytics tool that not only gathers this data but also makes sense of it.
So, instead of basing our assessment of risk solely on a small number of performance indicators, our analytics tool now has the ability to consider over a hundred metrics and give them the appropriate weighting. And perhaps the most impressive aspect of this tool is that it learns. Using artificial intelligence (AI), it periodically undergoes a re-learning process to sharpen its accuracy in predicting future risk profile.
The second area aids us in how we provide information and intelligence to our members. Creating and delivering loss prevention information is a key aspect of our role, and over the decades, we have accumulated a huge knowledge base. Our members rightly take advantage of this so they can take suitable precautions in advance of fixing new cargoes, trading in new areas or when encountering new issues and challenges.
In the past, we provided this information by posting articles on our website and by responding to enquiries from our membership. However, we have now partnered with geospatial intelligence experts Geollect to provide our members with an interactive map-based information portal called MyGlobeview. This allows easy access to key information that is specific to a port, country or region which can help a shipowner, operator or charterer assess the risks of a voyage – whether it relates to sanctions, maritime security, port operations or cargo-related risks.
Recent additions that enhance this tool include a ‘route risk advice’ function, where the user plots the vessel’s projected voyage onto the map, and a report is produced that contains the required risk information. The report can then be sent to the ship’s operating team and master to allow them to take the necessary precautions. Forewarned is forearmed.
A simple example: a shipowner is considering fixing a charter to carry a bulk grain cargo from the United States Gulf to China. A quick check on MyGlobeview will tell of the risks of piracy and robbery (identifying hotspots) in the Malacca Straits and the risk of cargo damage claims at outturn. This is supplemented with loss prevention advice and links to useful resources that will help mitigate these risks should the shipowner decide to fix.
Another new addition regards fuel quality. Since the introduction of the IMO 0.50% sulphur cap on 1 January 2020, the proliferation in the use of VLSFO (very-low-sulphur fuel oil) products has – as previously warned – brought quality and operational issues. To help our shipowner and charterer members make more informed decisions on their fuel purchasing arrangements, we have collaborated with fuel quality experts VPS to provide data on the bunkers from around the world. VPS have a wealth of historic data based on the thousands of bunker samples they receive, and by sharing this information, those buying the fuel – and just as importantly those using the fuel – have a better idea of what could be expected.
MyGlobeView was already proving to be a valuable resource for our members, but the events of the last year have really shown its worth. The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has affected almost every nation in the world. Each country has taken measures to combat the outbreak and inevitably this impacts shipping – which of course has carried on through it all. Shipowners, charterers and ships’ crews need to know the latest news about the measures in force at specific ports, and MyGlobeview has proven to be a useful way of providing this information. By simply navigating the map and clicking on a country, information such as port entry and reporting requirements, quarantine arrangements and any restrictions on crew movement and crew changes is at your fingertips.
In addition to the uploaded updates received from our global network of correspondents and contacts, it includes intelligence scraped by Geollect from numerous data sources. It has become a powerful tool in helping our members to continue trading during these exceptional times.
This has proven so successful in keeping our members up to date with the latest COVID-19 news, that we, with Geollect, have been instrumental in developing a similar tool for the International Group (IG). Although the P&I clubs may be competitors, there are times when we can work together for the good of the shipping industry and – more importantly – the safety and welfare of the seafarers all around the world.