Technology Takes Center Stage in Tokyo
The official theme of the International Union of Maritime Insurers (IUMI) annual meeting in Tokyo September 16-21 is “Disruptive Times – Opportunity or Threat for Marine Insurers?” and one key focus will be on technology issues, including cyber threats and Big Data. But the conference will also be an opportunity to see the Japanese market from the inside, a perspective that few international underwriters and brokers have.
“In the Tokyo market there are not many foreign insurers,” said Lars Lange, secretary general for IUMI, “but Japanese insurers are very active in the rest of the world. There was a concern after the massive Fukushima earthquake in 2011, everyone expected massive losses. But that is not a problem though; the national market in Japan is fairly balanced. They write and cover it locally.”
In terms of cargo premium, Japan is the second or third largest market in the world, Lange noted. Underwriters seeking to enter the market would do well to consider their core competency. “Is it coverage and claims, is it technology, is it distribution?” Lange asked.
“Insurers have to deal with their own business first, and then extend that to their customers,” he continued. “It is especially the case in marine insurance what clients need from us is risk assessment, loss prevention, and identification of emerging threats. Every company struggles with cyber threats. This is an area where we can do a great service to our clients.”
There is still a lot of ground to cover, even for the bigger companies, in areas like the Internet of Things and Big Data. There is a lot to be learned,” Lange said. “Once ways of addressing that are put in place, then that can be recognized in the premiums. The more precise your knowledge of risk the better you are able to allocate capacity at the appropriate price.”
Lange related an instance of how technology is changing both the operational realities of the maritime industry, and also the way operators and underwriters are responding to risks.
“I spoke to the chief executive officer of a major classification company, and he told me that one operator acquired a 3D printer and a supply of metal powder to provide spare parts aboard a ship.”
How well that will work in the rigors of shipboard operations, and if it lowers repair costs or boosts efficiency remain to be seen. But Lange sees an inevitable trend. “It is not unlikely that developments like this will only accelerate.”
“It is especially the case in marine insurance what clients need from us is risk assessment, loss prevention, and identification of emerging threats.” — Lars Lange, secretary general, IUMI
The conference starts with members-only committee meetings on Sunday. They are not open to general attendees, but Lange said he does not expect there to be any major or contentious issues discussed. The first-timers’ reception and welcome reception that evening are open to all.
On Monday morning is the president’s address to the plenary session, a state of the union report to all delegates and the industry. “Dieter Berg will give his view on the industry,” said Lange. Another highlight of Monday morning will be the annual facts and figures presentation with data on growth and claims, along with the macro-economic outlook from the chairman of the Facts & Figures Committee.
Monday afternoon the macro view turns to the future with the cargo workshop. That will focus on the economic outlook for the maritime industry. Topics to be addressed in the workshop include specialized cargo markets, freight-forwarder liability insurance, and smart logistics. There will be a press release with key findings which Lange added, “is always extremely interesting.”
Tuesday afternoon will include the ocean hull workshop, and separately the legal and liabilities session. A main topic in the latter will be the bankruptcy of the big Korean containership line Hanjin last year, but also consolidation among Asian container-ship lines including operators from Japan, Korea, and China.
“We will get the view directly from the coal face,” said Lange. There are also likely to be discussions about new marine bunker fuel and emissions rules.
Wednesday morning, the loss-prevention workshop “always has good thinking,” said Lange. “It’s a great workshop. There will be discussion of weather risk management, also the Internet of Things and topics like blockchain technology in cargo, cyber, and data analytics.”
Wednesday ends with the “Japan Evening,” and the event closes with a meeting of the new executive committee on Thursday morning.