I've been in the insurance industry for almost 40 years, and one thing that really bothers me is when vessel and shipyard owners think of insurance as a "thing."

This description couldn't be further from the truth. Still, everyone is trained to think of insurance as a thing. Think for a moment what the little gecko says in the Geico ads. He's advertising "a thing called insurance."

Marine insurance is not a thing. It is a process of solving problems regarding risks and it requires experience and attention to detail. It's not as simple as pulling a box off a shelf. A marine insurance agent and client should:

  • Review what the client does in great detail.
  • Assess the various risks.
  • Look at crew or staffing.
  • Identify hazards.
  • Review previous claims data.
  • Understand all previous surveys and risk management recommendations.
  • Know what a vessel does and where it will operate
  • Make sure documentation papers on any vessel are in order and stored in a safe place.

But there's more. If the vessels are inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard then more data is needed. In many fleets, there are different corporate owners for each vessel. This makes documentation information important to an insurer. If you own a pier or terminal, the insurer needs to know what ship types tie up there, who owns them, and how long they dock at your facility and for what purpose. The insurer also needs to know what your lender requires, and what contracts you have with indemnification or hold-harmless agreements.

The information gathering process continues until the insurance agent has enough to assess the needs and can logically and completely present your case to various insurance companies for quotes and proposals. Then the agent looks at the insurance companies and decides which is the best fit.

There are striking differences between insurance companies and their management styles. I've been asked by several of my clients lately if they have any insurance with AIG . This helps me understand that my clients are seeking advice and comforting wisdom, not just "a thing called insurance."

When it comes to marine insurance, one size doesn't fit all. Not even close.

A collection of stories from guest authors.