Sponsored Content by BHSI

A Streamlined Approach to Modern Construction Challenges

Against a backdrop of complex construction exposures, contractors are migrating to a new insurance approach that offers simplicity and enhanced protection.
By: | October 3, 2017 • 4 min read

Construction has never been an easy business. There are plans to draw up, approvals to win, materials and heavy equipment to maneuver, workers to manage, and financiers to appease — usually within tight time constraints. Expanded opportunities at brownfields, increased value engineering requirements, and skilled labor shortages all add to the sector’s challenges.

“The complexity of construction exposures continues to rapidly increase,” said Bill Sullivan, Senior Vice President, Head of Construction Casualty, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.

In this environment, contactors will want to reevaluate their insurance and risk management programs to ensure there are no coverage gaps, while at the same time addressing these emerging trends.

Current Trends Compound Complexity

Brownfield Sites

Bill Sullivan, Senior Vice President, Head of Construction Casualty

With the growth of urban centers in the U.S. and a scarcity of suitable building lots, contractors increasingly find opportunities in brownfield sites, which can be located in highly developed, densely populated areas. “At brownfield sites, contractors may have to deal with legacy pollution issues. They must be ready to respond to the possibility of such unknown site conditions. In addition, many brownfield redevelopments are high profile projects that local authorities have spent years nurturing,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan added, “Executing a project in a highly populated area means many potential impacted third parties. The contractor must negotiate and manage the impact work can have on the project’s neighbors. It’s a much different dynamic than working in a less populated setting.”

Value Engineering

The growing demand for value engineering means contractors are taking on the responsibility to review each building system and component for value, quality, lifecycle and maintainability. They also maximize value for their customer by providing direction concerning alternative materials and construction methods.

“If the contractor recommends an alternate material that has a shorter lifecycle, it may wind up costing the customer more in the long run to replace that material. Because the contractor is the one who suggested the use of a specific material, they need to be aware that they have taken on a professional liability exposure they may not have had absent value engineering,” Sullivan said.


Shifting workforce demographics create another challenge for today’s contractors. On the one hand, contractors face a maturing workforce that is less experienced with new means and methods, while at the other end of the spectrum, contractors have new workers whose lack of experience can compromise project quality and exacerbate risks. Additionally, with respect to new workers, this inexperience can also create safety issues for both workers on-site and for the general public.

Meeting Today’s Challenges With An Integrated Solution

Against this backdrop of complex exposures, contractors are migrating to a new insurance approach that offers simplicity and enhanced protection. “In the past, contractors would typically secure separate coverages at the primary and excess levels from a portfolio of carriers. We’re now seeing customers and brokers looking at ways to achieve more seamless coverage from a single carrier. There is so much potential interplay between lines of coverage in construction that it’s important to have coordination between them,” Sullivan said.

One way to achieve integration is through the use of a single excess integrated follow form policy, which can schedule and follow multiple lines of underlying coverage, such as: general liability, environmental liability, employer’s liability, professional liability, and automobile liability (as opposed to having multiple separate insurance towers from numerous carriers). Aligning coverage through a single excess carrier may help to provide consistency in limits and tower attachment points and reduce coverage gaps. Perhaps most importantly, the integrated approach streamlines claims services through the single carrier, which avoids coverage disputes between multiple carriers providing different lines of coverage. Streamlined claims services also has the potential to reduce frictional claims expenses.

BHSI: Uniquely Positioned to Be Your Integrated Excess Insurer

BHSI has been at the forefront in providing integrated excess solutions for contractors. The company brings to market several major advantages:

  • With its financial strength, BHSI can offer the capacity needed for a first layer integrated excess program;
  • BHSI is committed to excellence in claims handling, with an emphasis on experience, transparency and accessibility;
  • BHSI focuses on collaboration among team members, keeping lines of communication open across different lines written; and
  • BHSI provides a wide range of insurance products, giving it the expertise needed to manage the diverse multi-lines of coverage provided by an integrated insurance program.

As Mr. Sullivan noted, “Our integrated excess solutions are not boilerplate programs. They are tailored to address unique challenges and meet the particular needs of each individual insured. We have the unique combination of experienced people, a strong balance sheet, a broad product and service portfolio, and a commitment to long-lasting customer relationships that is truly dynamic.”

To learn more, visit https://bhspecialty.com/.

The information contained herein is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any product or service. Any description set forth herein does not include all policy terms, conditions and exclusions. Please refer to the actual policy for complete details of coverage and exclusions.


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

Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance (www.bhspecialty.com) provides commercial property, casualty, healthcare professional liability, executive and professional lines, surety, travel, programs, medical stop loss and homeowners insurance.

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]