Maritime seminar: what shipping developments can be expected in 2020?

Vanbreda and our partner Proteus Risk Solutions organised a maritime seminar for the first time in May. We invited five strong national and international speakers to talk about trends in the maritime sector. Some of the issues that were discussed were the evolving kidnap & ransom practices, the increasingly prominent role China is playing in shipping and the new opportunities presented by unmanned vessels.

Maritime seminar: what shipping developments can be expected in 2020?

Vanbreda Risk & Benefits acquired a minority interest in marine broker Proteus Risk Solutions in 2018. Vanbreda focuses on cargo and Protection & Indemnity insurance and has found the perfect partner in Proteus to expand its range with hull insurance. Our first joint maritime seminar attracted both national and international clients. Below we provide the insights that the speakers shared with their diverse audience.

Kidnap & ransom pirates are moving westwards

Tobias Ruthe of Toribos mainly talked about kidnap & ransom in Nigeria: “Nigeria is overtaking Somalia in terms of crime, particularly with regard to kidnapping by pirates demanding a ransom. This is mainly due to the religious, ethnic and political conflicts in this country, where the army also has a very strong presence. Tensions between the Islamic Boko Haram group in the North and the Catholics in the South, the high population density, the level of corruption and the oil supplies in the South have made Nigeria a very attractive country for criminals, including K&R pirates.” Tobias argued that the majority of kidnappings are still about money. “The victims are often local politicians, oil workers or expats. In the past, they usually emerged unscathed, but nowadays more violence is involved and more and more victims end up being injured or even killed. A big difference with the kidnappings in Somalia is that in Nigeria the victims are usually taken ashore and are then detained in the jungle.”

How drug smuggling spelled the end of the B Atlantic

Walter Justers, General Manager at Proteus Risk Solutions, analysed the case of the B Atlantic in his presentation: “When the ship was being loaded in Venezuela in August 2007, cocaine was found strapped to the ship’s hull. The street value was 8 million US dollars. This discovery eventually led to the ship’s seizure and the prosecution of the captain and second officer. The ship-owners claimed a constructive total loss under the War Insurance policy. Despite years of conflict between the insurance company and various courts, a negative verdict came in 2018 without any insurance reimbursement for the loss of the ship.” Justers then explained which type of insurance cover could have possibly provided relief in his opinion. Two examples he mentioned were Protection & Indemnity cover and the Nordic marine insurance plan.

Is shipping ready for Sulphur 2020?

Michaela Domijan-Arneri and Nick Chell of West of England provided an update on the upcoming Sulphur 2020 regulation. “This concept includes the new sulphur requirements to be introduced by 1 January 2020 to improve fuel quality. Will you use compliant liquefied natural gas (LNG) or high-sulphur fuel oils (HSFO)? Or will you install a scrubber running on seawater or tap water?” Poor quality fuel is detrimental to the environment and to the operation of the ship’s engine. The transition to a sustainable solution is therefore necessary, but this is not an easy process for many parties in the maritime sector. According to Nick Chell, high investments are in order: system adjustments, depletion of HSFO stocks, tank cleaning, raising awareness among the crew and so on. The exact impact of the legislation has been the subject of public debate. Some participants asked: “Have the shipping companies, shippers and suppliers now made the necessary preparations?” Critics doubted whether there is currently sufficient support for this new regulation within the sector.

Will China soon be leading the way in terms of worldwide ports?

Wim Dillen, International Development Manager at Port of Antwerp, captivated the audience with his explanation of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). He gave us a unique insight into the port of Antwerp’s thoughts on China’s ambitious export plans. Dillen: “The aim of this superpower is to trade with Africa. In a first phase it will do so via Europe, but in the next phase it will probably trade with Africa directly. To give you an idea: the unofficial map of the BRI does not mention the Western European ports and doesn’t even include some Asian countries such as India. Its sole focus is on Africa.” China is planning its transport to and from Africa via ports and train stations, for which it is reaching out to Europe for the time being. The port of Antwerp is cautious, but is forced to accept this invitation, Wim Dillen said: “We want our port to be a logistics hub for the rest of the world. We therefore see the BRI more as a threat than an opportunity”.

Setting sail for the future from the control room

Louis-Robert Cool of Seafar concluded the seminar with his talk on the opportunities of unmanned ships. “How they work exactly? We send technology to the ship that allows us to operate it remotely. The ship no longer needs a captain who is physically on board for months. Because the ship is controlled from a remote control room, even the role of captain can now evolve into more of a nine to five job. That is where the big efficiency gains lie,” Cool said. “Thanks to our technology, one shore captain can control up to three ships at the same time. The ship will no longer need a wheelhouse or other crew facilities, which frees up more space for the cargo.” Seafar’s unmanned ships are currently undergoing intensive testing in Flanders and their activities will expand to the Netherlands and Germany next year.

We are there for you.

If you have any questions about the impact of these developments on your maritime insurance policies, our experts will be happy to assist you. Call us on +32 3 217 67 67 or send an email to