Cracking the Cargo Conundrum

The smoke from nearby forest fires drifting across the entrance to the Port of Singapore wasn’t unduly worrying the captain of Titan, arriving from Shanghai with 10,000 containers on board. He had clocked the oil tanker off his starboard side and was content that, after obviously having a few navigational hiccups, the pilot of that vessel was now holding a course and speed safely out of Titan’s way. It was as he relaxed back in his chair and looked out across the bow that the smoke thinned out and he saw it. Another tanker. Huge. Q­max class carrying liquefied natural gas.

This is not the plot of a blockbuster book or the climactic scene of a Hollywood disaster movie. It is one of a number of plausible scenarios in the new RMS report on the challenges facing insurers because of the huge growth in marine cargo.

The report “Marine Cargo Catastrophe Modeling: Navigating the Challenges, Charting the Opportunities” examines the outdated techniques and incomplete data that marine insurers have had to make do with in order to estimate their cargo cat risk and port accumulations. Put simply, for too long knowing how much exposure they’ve built up in enormous international ports has been a guessing game. And two recent CAT events, which caused multibillion dollar losses because of huge concentrations of cargo, have exposed this weakness to an uncomfortable scrutiny.

The risks of global trade

Whereas the risks for land or property are essentially static, cargos are constantly moving and so the risk variables might seem unfathomably complicated. It’s not just the number of ports the vessel will go through and the CAT­ risks in those locations: hurricanes, storm surges, earthquakes, and terrorist attacks. Consideration needs to be given to the geology in that region, the construction of the ports in that country, and the level of disaster­ preparedness that exists.

As we saw during Superstorm Sandy, loss outcomes can be influenced by factors such as the exact location of cargo storage (In containers? In warehouses? Stacked?). Equally important is the vulnerability of the products. Are they fragile like electronics (ruined by water) or more resilient like jewelry (which can more easily be salvaged)?

The new RMS report in combination with the soon-to-be launched RMS Marine Cargo Model will bring clarity to these issues.

A purpose-built model for the industry

The RMS Marine Cargo and Specie model will be generally available this May, with the launch of RiskLink version 16.

To develop the model, the RMS geospatial team analyzed thousands of square kilometers of satellite imagery of top global ports and created a proprietary technique for allocating risk exposure across port terminals and storage structures. The port Industry Exposure Databases (IEDs) included in the RMS Marine Cargo Model, also incorporate important information on “dwell time,” or how long cargo spends at a given location. This variable, which is critical in determining port accumulations, can be highly influenced by variables such as weather, port automation, import/export ratios, and labor relations.

Covering almost 80 countries and three perils (wind, storm surge, and earthquake), the new marine model will provide 11 high-resolution and 150 medium resolution port industry exposure database, enabling the best insight on cargo vulnerability and global port accumulation currently available to the industry.

Director, Model Product Management, RMS
Chris Folkman is responsible for the strategic development of the RMS terrorism model, as well as all casualty models across the company’s suite of products. Chris has 12 years of insurance industry experience gained from roles in broker and carrier insurance companies, where he has led many aspects of property and casualty operations including pricing, underwriting, predictive analytics, regulatory affairs, and third-party commercial coverage and claims. Prior to joining RMS, Chris was Managing Director at CompWest Insurance Company, a workers' compensation startup that was acquired in 2007 by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Chris holds a BA in international relations from Stanford University. He is a licensed insurance broker and a Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter (CPCU).

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