RIMS 2018

RIMS Rocks San Antonio

Sexual harassment and the threats and opportunities in artificial intelligence will be on this year's RIMS agenda.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 6 min read

Everything is bigger in Texas, including the annual RIMS conference and exhibition taking place in San Antonio at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center from April 15 to 18.  The theme for this year’s show – “Go Big” – encourages risk managers to think outside the box, expand their relationships and strive to make a bigger impact in their companies and communities.


“It’s a call to action,” said Stuart Ruff-Lyon, vice president of events and education, RIMS. “How can you as a risk manager ‘go big’ in your organization and in your life? Our programming and design is meant to make attendees think about how they can make the most of this opportunity and apply what they learn to make a real difference.”

This year, the conference will provide attendees with a “journey journal” so they can take notes throughout sessions and meetings on how to apply takeaways to better themselves professionally and personally. They’ll have a lot to think about as the conference this year is focusing on topical issues like diversity and inclusion, sexual harassment, and disaster recovery and resiliency.

Diverse and Inclusive

“We’re starting to look at diversity and inclusion issues a lot more than we have in the past. I take these ideas very seriously as part of the overall experience we want to provide. Data tells us, and we can see for ourselves, how important diversity and inclusion are to our next generation of risk leaders,” Ruff-Lyon said.

Sunday afternoon will see the first ever “diversity inclusion meetup,” where participants can join small breakout groups and have discussions led by a professional facilitator around issues in diversity.

“It’s going to be a safe space for people to discuss sensitive issues and for allies who want more information,” Ruff-Lyon said. “We’ll see what comes out of the discussion and hopefully produce additional content or get new ideas on how we do things at the conference. We’re trying to chart a new course for RIMS, so we can be more diverse and inclusive.”

The selection of keynote speakers underscores a dedication to diversity in age, race and gender.

Opening speaker Alex Sheen, a millennial, reaches across generations with a message of honoring commitments. Sheen is the founder of “because I said I would,” a nonprofit that seeks to better humanity through making and keeping promises.

Stuart Ruff-Lyon, vice president of events and education, RIMS

“That’s a very powerful message that ties back into our goal to encourage risk professionals to follow through on what they learn here at the conference and apply it back home,” Ruff-Lyon said.

Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, the nation’s first African-American female fighter pilot, will speak at Monday afternoon’s awards luncheon about how to overcome internal obstacles and mental blocks to achieve greatness and exceed expectations.

“And Jay Leno is for laughs,” Ruff-Lyon said, speaking about the conference’s closing speaker. “It helps to lighten things up and finish on a high note when you’ve had an exhausting four days.”

And while keynote speeches are aimed at high-level messaging and motivation, this year’s educational sessions take deeper dives into the issues facing risk managers today.

Targeting Topical Issues

“We spent more time developing ‘hot topic’ ideas this year, trying to keep them topical and relevant. We have a session on sexual harassment in the workplace, for example. If you’re a risk manager that works for a company that faces a scandal, what do you do? This is a big issue facing every industry,” Ruff-Lyon said.

Some claims management sessions will also focus on the fallout from Harvey, Irma and Maria, and how organizations can proactively align resources to shorten recovery time and keep claims moving post-disaster.

“We’re still continuing to educate risk professionals about the impact of drones, driverless cars, etc. Artificial intelligence and robotics have been added to the lineup as well as they become more and more disruptive,” Ruff-Lyon said. “We always try to make sure that at least 30 percent of what people are seeing and experiencing is new to keep it interesting and different and fresh.”

RIMS relies on attendee feedback to inform session selection, as well as an independent scoring committee comprised of senior-level risk professionals from various industries. The committee reviews session proposals blind, with no knowledge of who submitted them or who the speakers will be. In addition to content quality, they focus on uniqueness.

Ruff-Lyon said the goal is to mix in new topics — or new angles on old topics — to spur creative thinking and provide a more well-rounded educational experience. In line with that goal, conference organizers this year added a new experience dubbed the “Innovation Hub.”

“I don’t think people are aware of all we do to protect attendees, but I think it will provide peace of mind to know that we are taking extra precautions.”— Stuart Ruff-Lyon, vice president of events and education, RIMS

“The Innovation Hub will feature 20-minute TED-style talks on different topics. Monday will focus on emerging risks, Tuesday will focus on claims management and Wednesday’s topic is cyber risk,” Ruff-Lyon said.

RIMS also revamped the experience for attendees visiting the exhibit hall. Now dubbed “RIMS HQ,” the area has doubled in size and comprises the Wellness Zenter, Thought Leader Theater, a publication stand, an opportunity to get a complimentary professional headshot, on-hand consultants ready to analyze résumés or LinkedIn profiles, and a quiet lounge reserved for members.


Oh, and puppies for stress relief.

“We’ve redesigned the entire experience inside the exhibit hall,” Ruff-Lyon said.

Safety and security will also be stepped up this year — one part of the experience that should be imperceptible to attendees.

“We are adding a lot of increased security measures around the event. We always have a police presence as well as plain-clothes officers, but in the past two years we’ve had bomb-sniffing dogs on our loading docks, and this year we added random wand and bag searches,” Ruff-Lyon said.

“I don’t think people are aware of all we do to protect attendees, but I think it will provide peace of mind to know that we are taking extra precautions.”

Things to Do

But not everything is new. Community service projects will take place throughout the show for those able to participate. One on-site opportunity includes assembling care packages for soldiers, veterans and their families, benefitting the charity Soldiers’ Angels.

The anticipated 10,000 to 11,000 attendees and exhibitors also have plenty to explore around San Antonio.

“It’s very walkable, very friendly,” Ruff-Lyon said. In addition to the iconic River Walk, the city also boasts scenic walking trails, a vibrant food scene, canal tours and the historic San Antonio Missions. &

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

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]