Insurers Say Tianjin Explosion Highlights Risks of Bigger Box Ships

Tuesday August 18, 2015

The recent warehouse explosion in Tianjin, China has highlighted the risks of accumulating cargo values in port storage and on larger containerships, the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) said in an emailed statement. 

"This extremely sad and regrettable incident demonstrates the persistent growth of accumulation of values in port and storage areas, particularly in highly industrialised regions," said IUMI President Dieter Berg

IUMI says that in the marine sector, the continuous growth of this type of large-scale risk is being driven by the trend for bigger container ships, along with the construction of extensive freight handling and storage facilities.

“Although we are focusing on losses caused by natural hazards such as flooding or hail, it is human error that is often to blame, particularly around industrial facilities," Berg said. 

"Man-made losses or damage caused by explosions are hard to model but they are comparable with acts of terrorism.

"To evaluate worst case scenarios we need to fully understand the value of the goods in the port and all potential exposures before we can calculate adequate premiums. This is becoming more of a challenge as these facilities continue to expand."

The explosion last week is now expected to have killed at least 100 people and injured hundreds more. 

Previous reports say that the explosion originated in a warehouse storing flammable goods.

"To evaluate worst case scenarios we need to fully understand the value of the goods in the port and all potential exposures before we can calculate adequate premiums," Berg said. 

"This is becoming more of a challenge as these facilities continue to expand.”

Earlier this week, it was reported that all oil product terminals in Tianjin had been closed following the incident, with no set dates on when they would re-open. 

Last year Ship & Bunker experts suggested that exponentially larger insurance premiums, rather than engineering limits, would eventually cap the maximum box ship size.