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Heading Abroad? Know the Risks

There is more to consider with international business travel besides good insurance coverage.
By: | March 29, 2017 • 7 min read

It used to be that international business travel was a glamorous perk reserved for Fortune 500 senior executives who globetrotted the world securing sales and distribution deals. Think first class flights, high-end restaurants and luxury hotels.

But oh have times changed!

As the global economy becomes more interconnected, many more companies and their employees are conducting business around the world in search of cost-effective suppliers and new sales markets.

“There are so many industries that used to be domestic U.S. focused but have since grown and expanded to be global. We’re seeing consultants, law firms, construction companies, even hospitals looking for opportunities outside the U.S.,” said Kathleen Ellis, Senior Vice President, International, at CNA. “While you can certainly accomplish a lot through conference calls, there is still a need for face-to-face meetings.”

Despite the rising frequency of international business travel, many companies underestimate the safety and liability risks facing their employees abroad, and are unknowingly under-insured.

The Mundane is Riskier than the Dramatic

Kathleen Ellis, Senior Vice President, International

Terrorism and crime usually get the most attention when it comes to global travel risk, but mundane safety issues are the more common causes of claims.

Slips and falls, for example, are much more likely when an employee is fatigued from a seven-hour flight. All it takes is a momentary lapse of attention to take a stray step into the way of an oncoming cyclist. Simple mistakes like misplacing a passport or a vital prescription can also call for immediate assistance and delay travel plans. Unpredictable illnesses likewise may require medical care and an extended stay.

“International business travel is expensive not just in terms of cost, but in terms of time and energy. There’s the stress of spending hours cramped in a plane, time-zone adjustments, sleep deprivation and still needing to be prepared to do business,” Ellis said. “That stress is compounded if you go to a country where you don’t speak the language, can’t read street signs or can’t communicate that you need help.”

These everyday woes are more frequent claim drivers than outright violence or crime.

“Sometimes people are not aware of all the aspects of international travel that they should anticipate or try to control,” said Chris Brutzman, Underwriting Director, CNA. “As a result, companies rely on domestic coverage that is just insufficient.”

The Problem of Incomplete Coverage

Too often, Ellis and Brutzman see middle-market companies rely on their domestic workers’ compensation coverage to cover incidental foreign travel accidents.

Workers’ compensation often includes some coverage for injuries incurred abroad, but the rules will vary depending on which state the coverage is written.

“Domestic workers’ comp may not apply 24/7, meaning it may not cover incidents that occur during ‘off work’ hours, and may not pay for emergency services like medical care,” Brutzman said.

And it would not respond to incidents where injury isn’t involved.

Becoming ill, getting robbed, losing a passport or anything else that requires immediate assistance and delays travel would be uncovered. Companies may procure trip travel insurance to cover expenses related to delay of travel, but even that may not be adequate for the full exposure.

Problems can also arise if a company purchases an international travel package from a different carrier than is used domestically.

“There’s almost guaranteed to be some finger-pointing if you have different insurers providing your domestic and international coverages,” Brutzman said. The policy language may not be consistent. This means the policies won’t “connect” in the right spots, leading to both gaps and overlaps in coverage.

The Coverage Solution

A comprehensive travel insurance package is more than workers’ comp. It should also include property policies to cover personal items like laptops; general liability and excess auto policies to cover the risks associated with renting a car; and business travel accident to fill in the gaps left by domestic workers’ compensation.

International policies should complement and work in sync with local policies to create streamlined and continuous coverage that meets the United States’ higher insurance standards.

“Take auto liability as an example. The U.S. requires pretty high limits as the norm, but we’ve seen some countries with limits as low as $5,000 in liability cover,” Brutzman said. “We arrange locally admitted policies to ensure compliance with local laws and regulations, but the goal of many international policies is to bring the local coverage up to a U.S. standard.”

Middle-market companies are often unaware of the liability exposure they take on without a suite of international policies. In particular, excess auto coverage is crucial for any employee renting a car.

“It has happened where someone rents a car abroad and causes an accident that results in injury,” Ellis said. “The liability will ultimately fall back to the employer.”

Companies may also be unaware of where exactly their domestic workers’ compensation coverage ends.

If an injury happens during an employee’s personal time, domestic workers’ compensation coverage would treat it as non-work related, even though it occurred in the course of a business trip. And it certainly would not respond to injuries suffered by a non-employee.

Don’t Overlook “Bleisure”

Business travel accident coverage acts a supplement to workers’ compensation, extending coverage to spouses or other travel companions around the clock. In other words, it covers ‘bleisure’ travel.

“The business travel accident supplement is referred to as ‘bleisure’ coverage because it encompasses both business and leisure travel,” Ellis said. “If you bring your family on a business trip and then extend it a little longer for vacation, this policy would provide coverage for everyone for the length of the trip.”

Ellis sees “bleisure” as a rising trend. More executives are opting to take advantage of travel opportunities by bringing along a spouse or friend and tacking on some vacation time. From their employers’ perspective, providing coverage for those traveling companions works for everyone’s benefit.

With the increasing cost of travel, businesses choose their trips and travelers carefully. Typically, business travelers are key executives. They are the decision-makers who need to seal the deal and make it back to the home office safely. It’s in a company’s best interest to provide full coverage for those executives even while they are on vacation time. The same goes for their loved ones. Though not an employee, any injury or mishap suffered by a key executive’s spouse will certainly impact the company.

Support as Critical as Coverage

Coverage, though, is the last thing on employees’ minds if they or a family member gets sick or hurt. Insurance is only meaningful when coupled with the right services. Travelers will need local help immediately if they are robbed, lose something or get sick. And due to time differences, these incidents tend to happen while the folks at home are sound asleep.

“A few years ago, for example, we sent a helicopter to airlift an injured insured out of the Amazon,” Brutzman said. “That’s an extreme scenario, but you can never be too prepared. The geopolitical environment is always changing, as are foreign laws and regulations, so this is not a static risk.”

To make sure they have all necessary coverage and services in place, risk managers should look to carriers with experience and developed expertise in the realm of global travel.

“Lots of carriers offer a comprehensive travel insurance package, but we are unique in how we execute it. We want to be problem-solvers who work with clients and brokers in a meaningful way,” Ellis said.

CNA’s companion services provide resources through every leg of a traveler’s journey, from pre-trip briefings and safety recommendations to emergency medical care if needed, and direction if a passport is lost or stolen. Insureds can access these services anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

To learn more about CNA’s international travel insurance, visit https://www.cna.com.

One or more of the CNA companies provide the products and/or services described. The information is intended to present a general overview for illustrative purposes only. It is not intended to constitute a binding contract. Please remember that only the relevant insurance policy can provide the actual terms, coverages, amounts, conditions and exclusions for an insured. All products and services may not be available in all states and may be subject to change without notice. “CNA” is a service mark registered by CNA Financial Corporation with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Certain CNA Financial Corporation subsidiaries use the “CNA” service mark in connection with insurance underwriting and claims activities. Copyright © 2017 CNA. All rights reserved.


This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with CNA. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.

Serving business and professionals since 1897, CNA is the commercial insurance carrier of choice for more than 1 million businesses and professionals worldwide.

Risk Report: Marine

Crewless Ships Raise Questions

Is a remote operator legally a master? New technology confounds old terms.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 6 min read

For many developers, the accelerating development of remote-controlled and autonomous ships represents what could be the dawn of a new era. For underwriters and brokers, however, such vessels could represent the end of thousands of years of maritime law and risk management.

Rod Johnson, director of marine risk management, RSA Global Risk

While crewless vessels have yet to breach commercial service, there are active testing programs. Most brokers and underwriters expect small-scale commercial operations to be feasible in a few years, but that outlook only considers technical feasibility. How such operations will be insured remains unclear.

“I have been giving this a great deal of thought, this sits on my desk every day,” said Rod Johnson, director of marine risk management, RSA Global Risk, a major UK underwriter. Johnson sits on the loss-prevention committee of the International Union of Maritime Insurers.

“The agreed uncertainty that underpins marine insurance is falling away, but we are pretending that it isn’t. The contractual framework is being made less relevant all the time.”

Defining Autonomous Vessels

Two types of crewless vessels are being contemplated. First up is a drone with no one on board but actively controlled by a human at a remote command post on land or even on another vessel.

While some debate whether the controllers of drone aircrafts are pilots or operators, the very real question yet to be addressed is if a vessel controller is legally a “master” under maritime law.


The other type of crewless vessel would be completely autonomous, with the onboard systems making decisions about navigation, weather and operations.

Advocates tout the benefits of larger cargo capacity without crew spaces, including radically different hull designs without decks people can walk on. Doubters note a crew can fix things at sea while a ship cannot.

Rolls-Royce is one of the major proponents and designers. The company tested a remote-controlled tug in Copenhagen in June 2017.

“We think the initial early adopters will be vessels operating on fixed routes within coastal waters under the jurisdiction of flag states,” the company said.

“We expect to see the first autonomous vessel in commercial operation by the end of the decade. Further out, around 2025, we expect autonomous vessels to operate further from shore — perhaps coastal cargo ships. For ocean-going vessels to be autonomous, it will require a change in international regulations, so this will take longer.”

Once autonomous ships are a reality, “the entire current legal framework for maritime law and insurance is done,” said Johnson. “The master has not been replaced; he is just gone. Commodity ships (bulk carriers) would be most amenable to that technology. I’m not overly bothered by fully automated ships, but I am extremely bothered by heavily automated ones.”

He cited two risks specifically: hacking and fire.

“We expect to see the first autonomous vessel in commercial operation by the end of the decade. Further out, around 2025, we expect autonomous vessels to operate further from shore — perhaps coastal cargo ships. For ocean-going vessels to be autonomous, it will require a change in international regulations, so this will take longer.” — Rolls-Royce Holdings study

Andrew Kinsey, senior marine risk consultant, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, asked an even more existential question: “From an insurance standpoint, are we even still talking about a vessel as it is under law? Starting with the legal framework, the duty of a flag state is ‘manning of ships.’ What about the duty to render assistance? There cannot be insurance coverage of an illegal contract.”

Several sources noted that the technological development of crewless ships, while impressive, seems to be a solution in search of a problem. There is no known need in the market; no shippers, operators, owners or mariners advocate that crewless ships will solve their problems.

Kinsey takes umbrage at the suggestion that promotional material on crewless vessels cherry picks his company’s data, which found 75 percent to 90 percent of marine losses are caused by human error.


“Removing the humans from the vessels does not eliminate the human error. It just moves the human error from the helm to the coder. The reports on development by the companies with a vested interest [in crewless vessels] tend to read a lot like advertisements. The pressure for this is not coming from the end users.”

To be sure, Kinsey is a proponent of automation and technology when applied prudently, believing automation can make strides in areas of the supply chains. Much of the talk about automation is trying to bury the serious shortage of qualified crews. It also overshadows the very real potential for blockchain technology to overhaul the backend of marine insurance.

As a marine surveyor, Kinsey said he can go down to the wharf, inspect cranes, vessels and securements, and supervise loading and unloading — but he can’t inspect computer code or cyber security.

New Times, New Risks

In all fairness, insurance language has changed since the 17th century, especially as technology races ahead in the 21st.

“If you read any hull form, it’s practically Shakespearean,” said Stephen J. Harris, senior vice president of marine protection UK, Marsh. “The language is no longer fit for purpose. Our concern specifically to this topic is that the antiquated language talks about crew being on board. If they are not on board, do they still legally count as crew?”

Harris further questioned, “Under hull insurance, and provided that the ship owner has acted diligently, cover is extended to negligence of the master or crew. Does that still apply if the captain is not on board but sitting at a desk in an office?”

Andrew Kinsey, senior marine risk consultant, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

Several sources noted that a few international organizations, notably the Comite Maritime International and the International Maritime Organization, “have been very active in asking the legal profession around the world about their thoughts. The interpretations vary greatly. The legal complications of crewless vessels are actually more complicated than the technology.”

For example, if the operational, insurance and regulatory entities in two countries agree on the voyage of a crewless vessel across the ocean, a mishap or storm could drive the vessel into port or on shore of a third country that does not recognize those agreements.

“What worries insurers is legal uncertainty,” said Harris.

“If an operator did everything fine but a system went down, then most likely the designer would be responsible. But even if a designer explicitly accepted responsibility, what matters would be the flag state’s law in international waters and the local state’s law in territorial waters.


“We see the way ahead for this technology as local and short-sea operations. The law has to catch up with the technology, and it is showing no signs of doing so.”

Thomas M. Boudreau, head of specialty insurance, The Hartford, suggested that remote ferry operations could be the most appropriate use: “They travel fixed routes, all within one country’s waters.”

There could also be environmental and operational benefits from using battery power rather than conventional fuels.

“In terms of underwriting, the burden would shift to the manufacturer and designer of the operating systems,” Boudreau added.

It may just be, he suggested, that crewless ships are merely replacing old risks with new ones. Crews can deal with small repairs, fires or leaks at sea, but small conditions such as those can go unchecked and endanger the whole ship and cargo.

“The cyber risk is also concerning. The vessel may be safe from physical piracy, but what about hacking?” &

Gregory DL Morris is an independent business journalist based in New York with 25 years’ experience in industry, energy, finance and transportation. He can be reached at [email protected]