"Evergreen Marine said the ship was "suspected of being hit by a sudden strong wind, causing the hull to deviate... and accidentally hit the bottom and run aground". For the insurance industry, who will likely be engaged with a flurry of claims in relation to the incident and the resulting tailbacks, the sudden strong gust of wind that caused the hull to deviate and run aground may trigger parties relying on force majeure clauses in many shipping contracts suspending obligations under bills of lading and charterparties, and conceivably leading to termination of contracts.
"Hull & Machinery Underwriters will have received notifications from the Insured Vessel Owners with the respective P&I Clubs put on notice. Given the scale of the incident and the ensuing bottleneck, its effects will be felt across the supply chain with claims for demurrage, container demurrage, delay, non-delivery, damaged goods and contamination. The incident is likely to cause further hardening of the marine insurance market, particularly in relation to Hull & Machinery, Cargo and Marine Professional Indemnity lines. The Marine Insurance Market has undergone significant change over the past few years with carriers exiting the market owing to unprofitable returns and internal restructuring, leaving limited capacity.
"The grounding of the vessel, the length of four football pitches, represents a recurring modern trend. The advent of ultra-large vessels has led to a reduction in the frequency of maritime casualty claims but the size of individual losses has increased exponentially. With premiums rising, the costs will be borne by end users, the purchasers of goods, particularly as vessels are being forced to navigate longer routes at extra cost with the canal being blocked.
"There are more and more reported instances of super container vessels encountering difficulties when navigating traditional canal passages, with the incident itself exposing the increased risk insurers expose themselves to when providing cover for such vessels. Whilst the shipping companies save costs by operating larger ships, the marine insurance market is bracing itself for claims both at sea and on land. Huge investment is required for the super containers' associated infrastructure including dredging port facilities, lowering access routes and berths, building larger cranes and storage facilities with claims increasingly arising from negligent design and construction."