Assessing Maritime Liability Claims: The Importance of Marine Claims Specialists

What is the role that Marine Claims Specialists perform within the maritime ecosystem? 

Kenny Choo, Deputy Director (Claims) of North P&I Club (North) addresses this big question and demystifies the industry through an interview with the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF). North is a leading marine mutual liability insurer that provides cover against risk and loss at sea. Kenny joined North in 2008 where he currently handles P&I claims and manages a team. 

How were you first introduced to the marine insurance industry? Did you have an educational background in maritime?

I started my career as a maritime litigation lawyer and during the course of my work, I was exposed to the various aspects of the marine insurance industry. Fortunately, many of its players were already /became clients of the firm I was in. I also became involved in several marine insurance related disputes which helped to broaden my exposure to the industry. 

Maritime was a particular area of interest for me whilst in law school and I specifically chose to take a number of maritime related modules. This includes a specific module on Marine Insurance, which was taught at that time by practitioners. It was quite eye-opening and really piqued my interest. 

 

What made you decide to pursue a career in marine claims?

Having practiced as a maritime litigation lawyer, moving into a specialist marine claims role was one potential and logical alternative career track. I was already familiar with North P&I Club, who was an existing client, when an opportunity arose in 2008 after they had just set up their Singapore office. 

I decided to take the plunge into the world of Protection & Indemnity Insurance/3rd party liability insurance (P&I), which is one of the key mainstays of marine insurance for a shipowner. I felt that my experience in maritime litigation could be leveraged into a career in P&I and that it would both broaden my knowledge and exposure to the industry’s workings. I also felt that it would allow me to view things from a different perspective outside of the strict legal lens. 

Could you provide us with an overview of your role as a marine claims specialist and Deputy Director of North?

As a Deputy Director in the Singapore branch, my responsibilities include handling P&I claims and managing a team of people. I am also involved in various expertise/portfolio groups within the Club that extend to our other regional offices in Asia as well. 

What is the career trajectory like for marine claims specialists?
At North, there are career opportunities for those who are just starting their career in P&I and for more experienced claims handlers. Junior claims handlers start either as a “Claims Assistant” or “Claims Executive”. 

As they gain experience and should they prove capable, they move on to become a “Senior Executive”. After that, they can potentially look forward to promotion to directorship which comes with additional responsibilities to handling claims. 

What are the types of marine claims that you deal with?

I handle the entire range of P&I claims that fall within the scope of North’s P&I Rules, from both a vessel owner as well as a charterer’s perspective (North insures both Owner and Charterer P&I risks). We essentially deal with liabilities that a vessel owner or charterer might bear. You can generally split the claims or liabilities into subcategories of “People”, “Cargo”, “Ship” and “others”. 

Without over generalising, People claims include incidents pertaining to illness, disability and/or death of seafarers, passengers and visitors, vessels/supernumeraries, quarantine due to an outbreak of infectious disease onboard a ship, stowaways, and diversion for the purposes to saving life or property etc. 

Cargo involves claims brought against a vessel owner or contractual carrier under a Bill of Lading for various types of loss or damage to cargo. Such claims arise from a breach of the carrier’s obligations to properly load, stow, carry and discharge cargo in accordance with the general carriage conventions, as well as other ancillary liabilities that might accompany the incident.  

Ship claims include those that arise from collision, allision, pollution, general average, salvage, towage. Then there are the other residual types of liabilities that potentially fall under the scope of P&I cover as well. The scope of P&I Cover is by nature wide so every incident is reviewed with reference to the P&I Rules to determine if it would fall within the scope of cover. Occasionally, these claims end up in litigation (e.g. before a court or an arbitral tribunal) and that is where my prior experience in maritime litigation has proven to be particularly helpful.  

Over the years, has there been a change in marine claims trends?

The claims environment ebbs and flows with trade patterns and demand, global events such as the pandemic and the global economic outlook. 

What challenges do you face in your role as a marine claims specialist?

Ultimately, we seek to achieve the most cost effective and satisfactory outcome for our Members. In practice, there are many variables that can affect this. Being able to navigate the complexities of the claim itself and manage the expectations of our insureds is a must and a challenge to be embraced. Each claim, large or small, is ultimately determined on its particular facts and I personally strive to achieve a consistent and balanced approach to every matter. 

Claims can occur anywhere in the world and are often multi-jurisdictional in nature. Part of the challenge is being able to manage and bring together the diverse strands to form a coherent and strategic whole. This is because your clients are relying on you for that support and guidance, including manging the many diverse service providers such as lawyers, experts, surveyors, and consultants who might be involved. Our insureds are ultimately commercial entities, so it is important to appreciate the commercial realities underlying a claim and not simply the legal principles. At North, we pride ourselves on our ability to achieve the above and the overall service that we provide our Members.

The maritime industry like any other, undergoes evolution and change on global, regional, and national levels, which can affect how claims are handled. This requires being up to date on the latest relevant developments and their potential impact on the various types of claims mentioned above. It is no mean feat, but we have systems in place to ensure knowledge and information is shared across our organization so that claims handlers do not find themselves feeling isolated. 

Shipping as an industry never sleeps so claims or incidents can occur around the clock. Occasionally, especially if the matter is urgent, it can lead to longer working hours. North however has multiple offices to cover various time zones and the offices cooperate to ensure that matters are handled timeously and effectively whilst also considering the need for work-life balance. 

What sets marine insurance apart from other areas of insurance?

Marine insurance enables world trade and without it, goods just simply would not reach their destination. To work in this sector is so rewarding as every day is different. 

What is a piece of advice that you would give to aspiring marine claims specialists?

I would encourage them to be nimble and open minded. There are times where it can be particularly challenging, but you will come away with a unique perspective on how a major and essential aspect of marine insurance fits and complements with the other parts that make up the maritime ecosystem. 

Indeed, marine insurance is just one of the many components that shape maritime. Learn more about this vast industry and the amazing internship as well as job opportunities in store at https://www.maritimesgconnect.com/

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Mr. Lars Kastrup

CO-PRESIDENT & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PACIFIC INTERNATIONAL LINES

Mr. Lars Kastrup is the Co-President and Executive Director of Pacific International Lines (Pte) Ltd (PIL).
Prior to joining PIL, Mr. Kastrup was CEO of NOL/APL, and subsequently assumed the role of Executive Vice President, Strategy and M&A at CMA CGM Group. A veteran in the global shipping industry with over 30 years of experience, Mr Kastrup’s other roles include Executive Vice President of Assets at CMA CGM Group heading up CMA Terminals, CMA Ships, Container Logistics as well as regional carriers such as MacAndrews, OPDR and Mercosul; as well as Vice President at AP Moller-Maersk.
Mr. Kastrup complemented his tertiary education with leadership and management training at Penn State University and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ms. Angeline Teo

MANAGING DIRECTOR & HEAD, GLOBAL TRANSPORTATION & OFFSHORE, OCBC BANK

Ms. Angeline Teo is the Managing Director and Head of Global Transportation and Offshore, Global Corporate Banking at OCBC Bank which focuses on the maritime, aviation, land & port ecosystems.
Ms. Teo has spent over three decades in maritime finance. Prior to OCBC, Ms. Teo was working at ING Bank, ABN Amro and DnB in Singapore focusing on maritime and offshore.
Ms. Teo graduated from the National University of Singapore with a degree in Business Administration.

Mr. John Martin

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, GARD SINGAPORE

Mr. John Martin began his career in London in 1989 with Richards Hogg Lindley Average Adjusters, and qualified as a Fellow of the UK Association of Average Adjusters in 2000.
At RHL he worked in their offices in Australia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In 2003 he joined Gard Hong Kong, as a claims handler. Mr. Martin also worked in Gard Japan, and in 2014 he moved to Singapore to set up the Gard Singapore office.
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Mr. Cyril Ducau

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, EASTERN PACIFIC SHIPPING

Mr. Cyril Ducau is the Chief Executive Officer of Eastern Pacific Shipping Pte Ltd, a leading shipping company headquartered in Singapore for the past 30 years.

He is also currently the Chairman of Kenon Holdings Ltd and a member of the board of directors of Gard P&I (Bermuda) Ltd. and of the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation Limited, which was established by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. He was previously Head of Business Development of Quantum Pacific Advisory Limited in London from 2008 to 2012 and acted as Director and Chairman of Pacific Drilling SA between 2011 and 2018.
Prior to joining Quantum Pacific Advisory Limited, Mr. Ducau was Vice President in the Investment Banking Division of Morgan Stanley & Co. International Ltd. in London between 2000 and 2008.
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