How can marine insurance play an active role in helping industry and society meet future challenges and opportunities? Skuld CEO Ståle Hansen knows he doesn’t have all the answers, but he’s committed to contributing towards both commercial and environmental sustainability in any way he, and his company, can. This is Skuld’s policy for tomorrow, today…
Walking into Skuld’s head office in Oslo immediately dispels many of the preconceptions dogging the maritime insurance industry.
The bright and lively building, housing around 140 of the firm’s 270 staff, is populated by smart young people (the average age at Skuld is just 41), of whom half are female. Multiple nationalities mingle together as one – there’s 28 represented across 10 international offices – as do specialisms, with lawyers, engineers and data analysts ebbing and flowing through a series of glass walled corridors.
Conservative and sombre this is not. And that’s before a beaming Ståle Hansen, Skuld CEO for the past four years, appears with a warm welcome.
There’s something afoot here…
Embracing the new
In many ways Skuld is as traditional as they come. Founded in 1897 as a P&I club for Scandinavian shipowners, it is now an A rated (Standard & Poor’s) insurance leader with an acknowledged focus on providing first class service to a global client base.
So far, so expected…but there’s more than it to that. Over recent years Skuld has quietly moved into a position as a modernizing force within its niche, embracing new ideas and activities to support both its customers and society moving forwards.
Under Hansen’s leadership the firm has adopted digitalization as a key priority area, while last year changing its core strapline to ‘protecting ocean industries’ – nodding to segments far beyond shipping. It’s a move that says a lot about Hansen’s ambitions.
“We need to stay as relevant as possible to both our industry and society,” he says. “The world needs to utilize ocean-based resources in fresh ways to support a growing population, while the maritime industry can use its established expertise to both serve that purpose and unlock new value and revenue streams. As a trusted insurance provider we can use our own lengthy experience to help customers prosper, while safeguarding society.
“As such, we believe we have a key role to play in enabling long-term, sustainable success for our stakeholders.”
Although Skuld’s undoubted strength remains in its core maritime P & I offering, the firm has established a solid base in the offshore energy segment and is now flexing its muscles across new ocean industries.
Offshore wind is an emerging specialism, with Hansen noting Skuld covers “the majority share of construction vessels” while it is also developing its product portfolio to insure turbines. Seabed mining and aquaculture have, he opines, “clear potential” for the future.
“We have seen a transition of our customers’ expertise from offshore energy into aquaculture, so it makes perfect sense to follow them on this journey,” he notes. “As demand from society grows we expect to see large industrialized operations built, potentially close to cities, to provide food for an expanding population. We won’t be insuring the biomass, but we do want to take a leading position insuring the infrastructure itself.
“Skuld sees this kind of development as an important building block for a more sustainable society.”
And here we hit on a central theme steering the current evolution of Skuld –sustainability. The firm is set to use Nor-Shipping 2019, taking place in Oslo and Lillestrøm, Norway, from 04 to 07 June, to engage customers in conversations relating to its vision for the future. This centres on the active support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and an ambition for insurance companies to play a role in facilitating them.
“Nor-Shipping has a unique ability to bring the whole spectrum of maritime and ocean stakeholders together in one place,” Hansen comments. “From shipping executives, to engineers, financiers, tech innovators and students – the next generation of our industry – all sharing ideas, opportunities and knowledge. In that respect it is the ideal arena to engage with decision makers and today and tomorrow’s influencers face-to-face in a sustainability discussion.
“Given the challenges, and opportunities, facing our industry and society right now I can’t think of a more important subject to talk about.”
Hansen argues that the marine insurance industry, by its very nature, already contributes to sustainability in very real but often under-appreciated ways. Companies, for example, actively assess and survey shipping risks, conduct casualty response services and perform extensive loss prevention programmes. The aim of these is to safeguard casualties and prevent injury to people, environment and property.
Skuld is committed to going one step further and using its expertise to support a “precautionary, predictive approach” to help mitigate risk to industry, society and the world around us.
Hansen explains: “We are sitting on a wealth of data that can be utilized to identify trends – for example, what sort of incidents cause causalities, which cause spills, what are the key threats that shipowners have to protect against. This creates a suite of loss prevention advice that we can share with the industry. Furthermore, when that data can be combined with data from other sources – whether that be from owners, AIS tracking, or authorities – we can refine its accuracy and predict risk with precision to deliver ‘on time’ advice.
“This has the ability to reduce accidents and claims costs, save lives and lessen environmental impact.”
The Skuld CEO says the initiative is “under on-going development now” with the company’s relatively recently established Strategy and Operations Department as its epicentre. He believes this ‘joined up approach’ is a natural step forward for an increasingly digitized industry, especially given the move towards greater automation and eventual autonomy within maritime. Another trend that, with human error contributing towards 80% of accidents at sea, will likely reduce cost and environmental burdens.
Commitment to change
Beyond the positive impact of the services it can provide, Skuld is also working to practice what it preaches by enhancing the sustainability focus within its own organization.
Hansen says the firm has already identified five key SDGs to support (SDGs 3, 10, 13, 14 and 16) and in the run-up to Nor-Shipping will begin the process of establishing robust KPIs, targets and a systematic reporting structure to ensure continual improvement.
“This is a clear commitment to the future from Skuld, not just ‘good intentions’,” he concludes. “The world needs a healthy ocean – but also a productive, responsible utilisation of its resources – if it is to survive and prosper. I believe the maritime and ocean industries have a pivotal role to play, and the insurance segment, with its data, experience and expertise, can help them deliver upon that potential.
“I look forward to discussing this with the global industry at Nor-Shipping 2019. It’s a topic we all need to cover.”