Project Cargo

Moving the Big Stuff

With capacity ample, project cargo insurers emphasize project management.
By: | August 31, 2015 • 8 min read

Big changes in global energy markets and the infrastructure needs of developing nations are driving large-scale construction projects globally. The building blocks for many of those projects must move by sea, a perilous passageway with the potential for massive losses.

Soft insurance rates and plenty of capacity erase any notion of project cargo insurance as a commodity. It’s in the engineering and project management that carriers win the business.

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Steve Weiss, SVP, marine, Aspen

“In many insurance lines, loss control and risk management are reactive but in project cargo, it is very proactive, especially for us,” said Steve Weiss, now senior vice president, marine, for Aspen who spoke to Risk & Insurance® when he was a senior vice president for Liberty International Underwriters.

“Engineering is the life cycle of project cargo, from the time of submission through underwriting, post binding and execution.

“You don’t make money in project cargo on rates or terms and conditions, you make money on project management,” Weiss said.

Not that anyone is making a great deal of money in project cargo at present.

“The project cargo market is still very active globally,” said Kevin Wolfe, global head of project cargo for Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty.

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“There is more than ample capacity overall, but there are still a limited number of major players that prefer to lead the largest projects. Rates are more competitive than they were several years ago, but still are at a viable level where profitability can be maintained.

“Terms and conditions are always being tested by the marketplace. Some can be adjusted, but some are very specific to project cargo, such as survey warranties.

Without those in place, coverage becomes so broad that we just won’t entertain the specific risk.”

Weiss concurred: “There is plenty of capacity to build any tower you need, up to $1.5 billion or so. But there are only a handful of lead underwriters.”

Global Infrastructure Needs

By definition, project cargo varies practically with every shipment. Wolfe said that Allianz is seeing activity in all regions. In Asia-Pacific and Africa there are quite a few projects related to quality of living, water filtration, power generation and transmission. In South America and Australia, there has been a lot of bridge and tunnel construction, while the Middle East is seeing more rail building.

“In the last year, we have seen a lot more activity in plant upgrades and expansions,” said Wolfe, “whereas a few years before, we saw more greenfield projects. We continue to see jumbo projects, like the natural-gas liquefaction projects, but have seen much more activity in small to mid-sized ones.”
The project cargo market is notable for the high-profile moves of huge, expensive, heavy, fragile and unusual items.

John Michel, marine underwriting manager for Global Special Risks (GSR) Group, a subsidiary of RSG Underwriting Managers, said those moves tend to go well because there is often just one shipment, and every one is paying close attention.

That was not always the case, he said.

John Michel, marine underwriting manager, Global Special Risks (GSR) Group,

Richard Neylon, partner, Holman Fenwick and Willan

“A few years ago we had a project shipment of a complete factory being moved from North America across the Atlantic. It was thousands of parts in many shipments. We just knew there were going to be some loss(es) because of the numerous shipments.”

Michel added that GSR was able to implement a program, and handle any claims.

The highly variable nature of the project cargo market also means that any given move can be expensive to cover.

“We just bound a contract for a big generating plant,” said Kevan Gielty, president and CEO of Coast Underwriters.

“The overall market is soft, but in many projects such as this one there is heavy exposure in lag time if anything went wrong. So the pricing for that policy was firmer than we have seen recently. In cases where premiums are more competitive, there is an even greater emphasis on loss control.”

Gielty noted a continuing trend in project cargo is manufacturers offering coverage. This is not new, but in a soft market every competitor is a factor. Some very large utilities and energy companies will simply self-insure to a point and only go to the market for excess.

“We typically get involved in the delay-in-start-up [DSU] component,” he said.

“When the U.S. was slow, Latin America was busy, especially expanding power sectors, most notably in Brazil. Now we are anticipating an uptick in Mexico as the energy sector is liberalized.”
— Steven Weiss, senior vice president, marine, Aspen

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“That is not written alone because we need to be involved in the whole process.”
Weiss said that “North American rates have declined the last five to six years. The high was in 2007-08, and they are down 15 to 20 percent since then, although relatively flat so far this year. The U.S. and Canada have seen a decent uptick in project cargo because of power generation and natural gas.”

Different regions can often be countercyclical, he said. “When the U.S. was slow, Latin America was busy, especially expanding power sectors, most notably in Brazil. Now we are anticipating an uptick in Mexico as the energy sector is liberalized.”

Growth Areas

Even as underwriters track geographic and sector changes, they are also seeking new types of business.

09012015_03_ProjectCargo_sidebar_400pxGSR has recently begun to write stock throughputs. “We cover every aspect from procurement through delivery,” said Michel.

“It is a bit more of a challenge for the underwriter, but it simplifies things for the insured. This is definitely a growth area for us.

“Another extension of the project cargo market is contractor’s equipment. The energy markets in London can be expensive, and they are focused on windstorm.

“Covering that through the cargo market gets away from restrictions of geography and storm. It also moves to a market where there is ample capacity and moderate rates.”

Despite the current conditions where terms and conditions are broad and rates are trending down, Michel is sanguine.

“These trends will catch up with the industry at some point, it cannot go on forever.”

One of the interesting — and challenging — aspects of project cargo is that it can be counterintuitive.

For example, globalization of green energy might seem to be a boon, but Wolfe noted that more and more solar arrays and wind-turbine components are being made in each region, so the coverage of those moves tends to be within the engineering and construction policies, rather than in the deep-sea marine realm as it used to be when only a few places had industry capable of making such components.

“Mining is still active in North and South America, as well as sub-Saharan Africa,” Wolfe said, but again there can be an overlap with construction.

“In many regions, the biggest challenge of a mining or manufacturing project can be the adequacy of roads and bridges necessary to get components and then raw materials in, or production out.”

The variable nature and size of some coverage also makes project cargo unusual in that lead underwriters have to adapt their organizations to a large project.

“We have to consider deployment of our own resources even before we bind,” said Wolfe.

“By the time we have a contract, we have already had multiple conversations with our loss-control team. They are an integral part of the underwriting process. They might identify 40 critical items in the project that could require 100 or more surveys in total.”

Given the size and scope of Allianz, the company naturally prefers to use its own people whenever possible. But that still requires adaptation by the underwriters and marine loss control.

“As a result, we move our people around globally as needed,” said Wolfe.

“That varies with the size and type and number of projects. There can be hundreds of surveys required on different projects in different parts of the world at similar times.”

“Managing a project is a very fluid environment, modes of transit and shipping schedules change, the people change, even the risk managers. We constantly have to match people to risks and risks to people.”
— Kevin Wolfe, global head of project cargo, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

Adding a fourth dimension, “nothing ever stays the same over the course of a multiyear project,” said Wolfe.

“Managing a project is a very fluid environment: modes of transit and shipping schedules change, the people change, even the risk managers.

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“We constantly have to match people to risks and risks to people. We do have a short list of outside vendors that have been vetted by our head of marine loss control, but even then the internal dialogue stays lively throughout the life of each project.”

Insureds can deploy risk management as well. There are several service providers that aggregate and analyze exposures and losses.

“Data is often spread across many losses, claims, exposures, policies, programs and different companies with different platforms,” said Bob Petrie, CEO of Origami Risk.

“We use analytics to look for patterns and events that cause losses. Insureds can use those to identify sources of exposure. Then, if there is a loss, the software can be used to report a claim, and it will get the loss reports and supporting documents to the underwriters.”

One of the new targets in project cargo risk management is tracking near misses, said Phil Wiedower of Origami.

Near-miss data is often held within an owner’s records, but tends to get overlooked because there is no claim, he said.

“Owners are looking to understand what risks to retain and what to transfer. Knowing the near misses as well as the loss history is important in the transfer cost-benefit analysis,” Wiedower said.

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]

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2018 Risk All Stars

Stop Mitigating Risk. Start Conquering It Like These 2018 Risk All Stars

The concept of risk mastery and ownership, as displayed by the 2018 Risk All Stars, includes not simply seeking to control outcomes but taking full responsibility for them.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 3 min read

People talk a lot about how risk managers can get a seat at the table. The discussion implies that the risk manager is an outsider, striving to get the ear or the attention of an insider, the CEO or CFO.

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But there are risk managers who go about things in a different way. And the 2018 Risk All Stars are prime examples of that.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Goodyear’s Craig Melnick had only been with the global tire maker a few months when Hurricane Harvey dumped a record amount of rainfall on Houston.

Brilliant communication between Melnick and his new teammates gave him timely and valuable updates on the condition of manufacturing locations. Melnick remained in Akron, mastering the situation by moving inventory out of the storm’s path and making sure remediation crews were lined up ahead of time to give Goodyear its best leg up once the storm passed and the flood waters receded.

Goodyear’s resiliency in the face of the storm gave it credibility when it went to the insurance markets later that year for renewals. And here is where we hear a key phrase, produced by Kevin Garvey, one of Goodyear’s brokers at Aon.

“The markets always appreciate a risk manager who demonstrates ownership,” Garvey said, in what may be something of an understatement.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Dianne Howard, a 2018 Risk All Star and the director of benefits and risk management for the Palm Beach County School District, achieved ownership of $50 million in property storm exposures for the district.

With FEMA saying it wouldn’t pay again for district storm losses it had already paid for, Howard went to the London markets and was successful in getting coverage. She also hammered out a deal in London that would partially reimburse the district if it suffered a mass shooting and needed to demolish a building, like what happened at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

2018 Risk All Star Jim Cunningham was well-versed enough to know what traditional risk management theories would say when hospitality workers were suffering too many kitchen cuts. “Put a cut-prevention plan in place,” is the traditional wisdom.

But Cunningham, the vice president of risk management for the gaming company Pinnacle Entertainment, wasn’t satisfied with what looked to him like a Band-Aid approach.

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Instead, he used predictive analytics, depending on his own team to assemble company-specific data, to determine which safety measures should be used company wide. The result? Claims frequency at the company dropped 60 percent in the first year of his program.

Alumine Bellone, a 2018 Risk All Star and the vice president of risk management for Ardent Health Services, faced an overwhelming task: Create a uniform risk management program when her hospital group grew from 14 hospitals in three states to 31 hospitals in seven.

Bellone owned the situation by visiting each facility right before the acquisition and again right after, to make sure each caregiving population was ready to integrate into a standardized risk management system.

After consolidating insurance policies, Bellone achieved $893,000 in synergies.

In each of these cases, and in more on the following pages, we see examples of risk managers who weren’t just knocking on the door; they were owning the room. &

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Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, clarity of vision and passion.

See the complete list of 2018 Risk All Stars.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]