North P&I Club’s Chief Executive and International Group Chairman, Paul Jennings, says that the response needed for COVID-19 could inspire marine insurers to cooperate further on data sharing.
In the early weeks of COVID-19, the 13 International Group of P&I Clubs (IG) mobilised a new digital tool, developed by North, to draw on the grouping’s intelligence, track the pandemic’s spread and offer guidance to Members on the response of authorities worldwide.
The new tool draws on information from IG club correspondents, the IMO, the World HO, Wilhelmsen Ship Management, and ship agency GAC, offering live updates on confirmed virus cases, countries at risk and what to look out for. Paul Jennings North CEO says the resulting data offers a powerful example of the way pooled resources can be used to mitigate risk, to collectively benefit the maritime industry and those who work in it.
Jennings, who is also Chair of the International Group is doubling down on the drive to encourage a ‘stronger together’ mindset in the P&I world that has been a key part of his vision for the IG since he took the hot-seat in 2018.
In 2020, he says the travel restrictions forced on crews by coronavirus represent a crisis that is crying out for collective action from shipping stakeholders. With more than 1.2 million seafarers at sea at any one time, over 250,000 have now been caught up in delays to crew changes, as travel and border restrictions have been applied and repatriation refused. Stopgap contract extensions have been prolonged further, with seafarers feeling trapped on board for months, despite many having had no contact with coronavirus and posing no risk.
“Most of the challenges have actually arisen from preventative actions being taken by nation States to limit the spread of the disease,” says Jennings. “In our capacity as insurers, we must take every opportunity to support the welfare and well-being of the crews that uphold safe and environmentally responsible working practices at sea. However, crew repatriation is being hindered by quarantining, visa issues and bureaucracy, and only governments are empowered to give common purpose to fragmented authority.”
In some cases unrelated to COVID-19, critically ill crew members have been unable to get ashore; in others, routine injuries have been exacerbated for the same reason, Jennings adds. Only far-reaching actions such as recognising seafarers as ‘Key Workers of the Sea’ at a global level can side-step restrictions being re-imposed, in case of any future pandemic or a COVID-19 ‘second wave’, he says.
Jennings expressed strong support for a joint statement issued by 13 governments after a ‘virtual summit’ hosted by the UK Government on the crew change issue on 9 July 2020, although he also emphasised that words should quickly translate into action. “We are especially pleased that the joint statement raises the possibility that either STCW certificates or ILO identity cards could be used as evidence to support the classification of seafarers as key workers to enable travel for crew changes,” he said. “Now is the moment for administrations to step up and demonstrate that they truly support the protocols IMO outlined in May, and its role as the instrument for upholding standards in global shipping.”
Jennings hopes that a more collective mindset will be one of the P&I positives to emerge from the pandemic. More data sharing to enhance safety at sea and environmental protection would certainly suit a sector where organisations that previously planned digital strategy in one to three-year cycles have had to respond in days or weeks to try and mitigate the economic, political, social and consumer fall-out from COVID-19.
“The IG, is 13 businesses that compete but I think all of us are aware that here is a key moment to show that, to protect shipping as an industry, we are stronger if we work together,” he says. “As the pandemic has unfolded, we have seen how up-to-date and relevant information from every resource supported by IG member insights can cut through the background noise to enhance understanding of COVID-19’s impact for our industry.”
Although the IG’s huge collective dataset spans around 90% of global shipping insured in the IG – Jennings points out: “Yet traditionally we have not shared data properly. We are starting to, and I am passionate about going further; we should be sharing data on more regular types of loss prevention initiatives around the safety of crew and the safety of life at sea. Shipowners P&I claims data effectively belong to them as mutual Clubs are owned by their Shipowner Members, and they expect the IG to cooperate and share that data to the benefit of the industry and wider maritime community.”
Freely sharing the proprietary intellectual property behind the COVID-19 tracking tool, which North offers as ‘MyGlobeView’, is a tangible example of the commitment he gave at the start of his tenure as IG chairman in 2018 to encourage data sharing, Jennings says.
“The IG does recognise the key responsibility it has to effectively utilise its unique claims data set to support sustainable shipping,” he adds. “North’s and for that matter the IG’s purpose is to enable Members to trade with confidence at all times but particularly so in the current pandemic and I would like to think that when we come out of the other side of this global crisis, we will be prepared to continue to share data to greater effect on behalf of our industry.”
The IG has a separate Data Analytics Sub-Committee which seeks to collate and share IG Club data, Jennings adds. Combined datasets can be used to bring benefits elsewhere, he emphasises, with working groups already up and running on IT, cyber security, and sustainable shipping.
He also supports views expressed by shipping economist Martin Stopford, that COVID-19 could act as a powerful catalyst to revolutionise shipping operations and the technologies used.
“Within the shipping sector, we will see a wider acceptance of existing digital technologies to drive changes in working practices. This will lead us to new applications within shipping to continue the transition to digital operations and ‘smart shipping’ practices which, if data is truly shared, can include predictive modelling of vessel behaviours and other proactive loss prevention tools.”
This article originally appeared in Insurance Day and is reproduced here with permission.
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