The managing director of specialist marine and cargo underwriter The Strike Club has warned that the threat to the movement of maritime goods across the world will only continue.
Speaking to Fairplay, Will Robinson said the international action against Qatar and the crippling Spanish dock strikes have simply highlighted to the maritime sector the need to plan and protect against disruption.
“The issues around Qatar have been in the headlines recently because of the nature of the action by certain countries in the region and the comments around terrorism,” he explained. “However, over the past month we have seen unions in Spain hold rolling 48-hour strikes, which have closed ports across the country and caused significant impact to the Spanish economy.
“While no country is keen to put figures to the effect that such actions are having on their economy, three quarters of Spain’s imports and half it exports go via the ports.”
He added, “While there is an expectation that the strike will be halted while talks to resolve the matter continue, we have seen in the past negotiations fail to reach agreement and industrial action resume.”
Robinson said in both cases the immediate impact of the action can be mitigated by insurance cover but owners also had to quickly find ways to solve the problems when the issue became apparent.
“We have already had claims from our clients over the Spanish strikes,” he explained. “It was much the same with the Qatar issues. If a vessel had left Qatar say with a cargo of oil and had expected to bunker in the UAE and found they were unable to then it would be likely covered by insurance. The same would likely be the case if a vessel was about to enter a Spanish port but was suddenly prohibited from doing so due to industrial action at the start of the month.
“Once the action has been notified and the implications understood then the vessels and the industry would look to work around it.”
Both Qatar and the Spanish strikes highlight the problems faced by the maritime sector, Robinson said.
“We live in uncertain times, and shipowners have to understand that the threat of political and industry actions, such as we have recently seen, continue. The insurance industry has products that can help when such events arise. Owners and charterers need to recognise the threats they face and ensure they have strategies and protections in place. It is too late when the vessel is outside a port and is unable to access it.”