President’s Opening Remarks

Richard Janssen

Good morning and thank you for joining this virtual ISU Associate Members’ Day. We are all now very familiar with these kind of events and I hope that as the situation improves in the months ahead, we can move back towards meeting in person again. We have chosen to keep today’s proceedings quite short but we hope that the content will be interesting for you and that the event will go some way towards keeping the ISU and you, our associate members, and the wider industry connected.

I have always said that insurers and salvors should work cooperatively together because we serve the same client – the shipowner. So today we are fortunate to have with us

  • the Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping, Mr Guy Platten, representing owners’ groups;
  • the Chief Executive of the International Group of P&I Clubs, Mr Nick Shaw, representing the liability insurers and
  • from the International Union of Marine Insurers, Executive Committee member, Mr Frédéric Denèfle, representing property interests.

After my remarks each of them will all give short talks and then join a Q and A panel session.

The ISU Associate Members’ Day is usually an occasion for new associate members to introduce themselves and to talk about their work. There is not enough time for that today but I would like to welcome the following companies who have joined as new associates over the past year;

REACT Emergency Response – The Netherlands

PolyEco Group – Greece

SeaOwl Group – France

Xtreme Projects – USA

Centre D’Experties Pratiques de Luttes Antipollution – French Navy

Sound Testing – USA

Today my main theme is environmental protection. International news in the past few years has not been lacking personalities to generate media coverage: Mr Trump, Putin and Xi, Mark Zukerberg and even the exemplary Captain Tom Moore. But two other non-political figures have been influential globally and have become universally recognisable. One is an elderly gentlemen the other a teenager. They are David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg. I name them because they are the most visible figureheads of a changed world in which care for the environment has become possibly the most important driver of political and business decision making.

Public attitudes towards environmental damage have hardened. Governments have talked about “Zero Tolerance” of spills for some time but it is now demanded by the public.

Preventing and countering marine pollution is a core business of members of the ISU and is facilitated by their people, skills, equipment and innovation. Every marine casualty presents the possibility of a threat to life, to the marine environment and the possibility of loss of property. It is the role of the commercial salvor to intervene and to prevent such loss and damage.

Today we are publishing our pollution prevention statistics for 2020. The headlines show that our members conducted 191 operations involving casualties carrying some 2.5 million tonnes of potential pollutants. As always we are careful to point out that not all of the cargoes noted in the survey were at imminent risk of going into the sea. But even with a relatively simple rescue tow it is worth considering the consequences if there was no commercial provision of salvage services.

These are aggregated statistics but let us consider what this means in reality. I am sure you are all familiar with case of the Wakashio. I mention it not because of my own firm’s involvement but because it was the classic media case of a spill in an environmentally sensitive location; it was easy to film dramatic pictures and there were shocking images of oiled wildlife, aerial shots of an oil slick and local people desperately cleaning up beaches.

We often concentrate on dirty cargos, but as we know, the Wakashio was in ballast and was leaking bunker fuel, approximately 1000 tonnes. Several thousand more tonnes – close to 80% – were successfully contained and then removed. The cost of the clean-up alone will run into tens of millions of dollars and is likely more costly than the total cost for the emergency response and wreck removal operations combined.

And in the ISU pollution prevention survey there were 4 cases in which there was more than 4000 tonnes of bunker fuel on the casualty, a further 6 cases where there was more than 3000 tonnes and a further 4 cases with more than 2000 tonnes. That is 14 casualty vessels each with more than 2000 tonnes of bunker fuel on board.

Another case was a badly damaged VLCC laden with more than 200,000 tonnes of black oil. The survey also records separate cargoes of many thousands of tonnes of cyclo-hexene, vinyl chloride, gasoline, gasoil, lead granules and diesel fuel. We don’t know the circumstances of each of these casualties but we can say for sure that the cargoes were either dangerous or dirty and would cause great damage and cost if they had been released. Our communications adviser, James Herbert, will say more about the survey in a few minutes time.

ISU members’ services in these cases have undoubtedly helped to reduce, if not minimise, potential losses for the underwriters and owners. Quite often these interventions were supported by many of you, our Associate Members and we would like to thank you for that. Our members help to protect hard won reputations, less easy to quantify but more and more important in our connected and social media-dominated world.

SCOPIC has played its part in pollution prevention and is generally thought to have worked well since its introduction in 1999. Its “safety net” protects the salvor to a certain degree and encourages services that could save the club from huge claims for environmental damage if there was no intervention.

And ISU members want to be partners with the insurance industry, not adversaries. In the past there has been suspicion on both sides but all parties need to cooperate on a salvage operation and it should be the same when we negotiate industry-wide matters on dry land.

In that context, SCOPIC was satisfactorily updated two years ago and we are now working with the clubs on revisions to the BIMCO suite of wreck removal and marine services contracts. We look forward to further work on this and also on the Code of Practice for wreck removal tendering between the IG and ISU and we hope to reach satisfactory conclusions but it will take some time.

Successful salvage is like a three legged stool which only works properly when all three legs are in place. The requirements are: first, a skilful, experienced and well-equipped salvor. Second, a fair and encouraging contractual and financial environment and third, supportive and sensible authorities.

Countering marine pollution can require the authorities to be brave and rise above politics, particularly so in granting a place of refuge. ISU recognises that the risk of pollution cannot be completely eradicated and that bringing a casualty into port or another place of refuge could run the risk of pollution. The European Union has done good work to implement a set of operational guidelines on places of refuge and we continue to push for wider international improvement through the leadership of IMO.

The ISU’s pollution prevention survey clearly demonstrates that marine salvors are central in protecting the marine environment: in many cases it is the most important part of the job. There may be some state-funded Emergency Towing Vessels and international oil spill response organisations but it is only the professional salvors who have the skills, capability and courage to intervene successfully to prevent or contain pollution and to stop casualties becoming ecological disasters. Members of the ISU are innovators and invest in their personnel, new equipment and techniques but to be effective they need to operate in the context of a supportive contracting environment, coastal state authorities and our associate members which enable them to perform at their best.