Tianjin Blasts a Blip as Marine Insurance Prices Keep Falling

Posted by Michelle Howard
Thursday, January 07, 2016
Reinsurance rates in the marine sector continued to fall at the start of the year, in spite of the huge cost of explosions at China's Tianjin port last August, reinsurance broker Guy Carpenter said on Thursday.
Rising competition to offer reinsurance and slower activity in China, were two factors depressing rates, it said.
The blasts at Tianjin caused insured losses of up to $3.3 billion, Guy Carpenter has estimated, while reinsurer Swiss Re has called it the largest man-made insurance loss in Asia. The explosions killed more than 170 people.
"Tianjin has had little or no impact on marine pricing," Chris Klein, head of EMEA strategy management at Guy Carpenter, told a news conference.
Many reinsurance contracts are renewed in January and Klein said marine reinsurance prices this month were down by between 5 and 20 percent from a year ago.
Reinsurance rates have been falling across the board for several years, with traditional reinsurers seeing increasing competition from "alternative" investors such as pension, hedge or sovereign wealth funds, who often choose to buy reinsurance packaged as a capital markets instrument.
In the marine sector, falling commodity prices had reduced the cost of cargo, while flagging growth in key importers such as China was also hitting activity levels, driving down reinsurance rates, Klein said.
"Less cargo is being moved, the cargo which is being moved is worth less - you can see how that has had an effect."
Aerospace reinsurance rates have also fallen, despite large losses last year, including the crash of a Germanwings plane in the French Alps, Klein said.
After a big damage claim, reinsurers typically raise the price they charge their insurance company clients for helping to shoulder future losses. However, this has not happened due to players' willingness to take on risk at the same or lower prices.
Aerospace reinsurance rates were down between 10 and 20 percent from last January, Klein added.
"New entrants continue to enter the market - reinsurance has to follow," he said.
In aviation reinsurance, rival broker Willis Re has also said it has seen price falls of 10 to 15 percent.
Germany's Allianz has estimated insurers will pay $300 million in claims and costs stemming from the crash of the Germanwings plane.
(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn and Jonathan Gould)

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