Suez blockage may lead to large reinsurance claims, broker Willis Re says

Formal investigations began this week into how the giant container ship Ever Given ran aground in the canal, shutting down shipping in the major global waterway for almost a week

  
A ship is seen after sailing through Suez Canal as traffic resumes after a container ship that blocked the waterway was refloated, in Ismailia, Egypt, March 30, 2021.

A ship is seen after sailing through Suez Canal as traffic resumes after a container ship that blocked the waterway was refloated, in Ismailia, Egypt, March 30, 2021.

Reuters/Hanaa Habib

LONDON  - The blockage of the Suez Canal is likely to lead to large reinsurance claims, adding to upward pressure on marine reinsurance rates, James Vickers, chair of reinsurance broker Willis Re International, told Reuters.

Formal investigations began this week into how the giant container ship Ever Given ran aground in the canal, shutting down shipping in the major global waterway for almost a week.  

The incident and its impact on hundreds of ships delayed in the canal would be a "large loss" for insurance market Lloyd's of London, its chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown said this week, while Fitch Ratings said global reinsurers were likely to face hundreds of millions of euros of claims.  

Vickers also said reinsurance losses were "not going to be a small amount of money". The blockage was the latest in a growing number of man-made disasters leading to reinsurance losses, on top of a list of natural catastrophes in the past year, he said.

Reinsurers help insurers cover claims for major events such as hurricanes, in return for part of the premium. Reinsurers typically raise rates after they experience large losses.

Even before the Suez incident, the marine market "didn't need much encouragement to keep going in an upward direction", Vickers said.

Global marine reinsurance rates were generally seeing "high single digit" percentage point increases, Willis Re said in its April reinsurance renewals report on Thursday.

Marine reinsurance premiums have been rising for the past few years after several years of falling rates, as Lloyd's of London and other firms have cut back on loss-making lines, reducing competition. The COVID-19 pandemic has also put upward pressure on reinsurance rates across the board.

Elsewhere, the U.S. property reinsurance market has been hit by a number of catastrophes including Winter Storm Uri in the United States in February, with rates up by as much as 25% in April, the report showed.

(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Nick Tattersall) ((carolyn.cohn@thomsonreuters.com; 44 207 513 4391;))

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