Insurers face multi-million-dollar claims from Maersk ship fire

THE fire-damaged 15,262 TEU Maersk Honam has rocked the insurance industry with a repair bill to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, although some shippers will not have been insured, according to the UK's Loadstar.

According to AIS signals received from one of the salvage tugs in attendance, the vessel was still-smouldering while being towed to port of refuge, heading slowly in the direction of Mumbai.

The 2017-built Maersk Honam caught fire on March 6 in the Arabian Sea en route to the Mediterranean, via the Suez Canal, claiming the lives of four seafarers with a further crew member presumed lost.

According to the Indian coastguard pictures, hundreds of containers in the fore section of the mega ship appeared to be a total loss, but boxes stowed behind the superstructure and in the aft section looked intact.

Maersk declared a general average (GA) on March 9 and appointed Liverpool-based average adjuster Richards Hogg Lindley to collect the necessary GA security. It said it had advised cargo owners, including 2M partner MSC, of its decision to declare GA.

MSC requested its customers to contact their insurance company "so that your cargo can be released without delay," adding: "We have not received any reliable information regarding the condition of your cargo, but we will be sure to inform you after we are notified."

However, many of the shippers may not have arranged any marine cargo insurance and will be in for a shock when the average adjusters require a substantial deposit before the release of undamaged containers. The basic concept of GA is that all losses, including salvage, port and transfer costs are shared between surviving cargo.

For cargo that was insured, marine reinsurance branches are bracing for an avalanche of claims. Insurers have for some time expressed their concerns about their exposure in the event of a major incident to a mega containership.