‘Marine insurance’ refers to the insurance of goods dispatched from the country of origin to the country of destination. The term originates from the fact that goods intended for international trade were traditionally transported by sea. Despite what the name implies, marine insurance is applicable to all modes of transportation of goods. When the goods are sent by air, their insurance is also known as cargo insurance.
Insurance is often compulsory in many export trade contracts. It can be the obligation of the exporter or the importer to pay the insurance cost on the shipment, depending on the terms of the contract. However, the need for insurance goes beyond contractual obligations, and there are several valid arguments for buying it before dispatching the export cargo.
Marine insurance transfers the liability of the goods from the parties and intermediaries involved to the insurance company. The legal liability of the intermediaries handling the goods is limited to begin with. The exporter, instead of bearing the sole responsibility of the goods, can buy an insurance policy and get coverage for the exported goods against any possible loss or damage.
The carrier of the goods, be it the airline or the shipping company, may bear the cost of damages and losses to the goods while on board. However, the compensation agreed upon is mostly on a ‘per package’ or ‘per consignment’ basis. The coverage so provided may not be sufficient to cover the cost of the goods shipped. Therefore, exporters prefer to ship their products after insuring the same with an insurance company.
Marine insurance is also necessary to meet the contractual obligations of exports. To align with agreements such as cost insurance and freight (CIF) or carriage and insurance paid (CIP), the exporter needs to take marine insurance to protect the buyer’s or their bank’s interest and honor the contractual obligation. Similarly, in the case of Delivered Duty Unpaid (DDU) and Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) terms, the seller may not be obligated to insure the goods, although in practice they generally do.
To avoid insurance claims, ensure the following:
Large exporters may opt for an open policy, also known as a blanket or floating policy, instead of taking insurance separately for each shipment. An open policy is a one-time insurance that provides insurance cover against all shipments made during the agreed period, often a year. The exporter may need to declare periodically (say, once a month) the detail of all shipments made during the period, type of goods, modes of transport, destinations, etc.
A specific policy, also known as a voyage policy, can be taken for a single lot or consignment only. The exporter needs to purchase insurance cover every time a shipment is sent overseas. The drawback is that extra effort and time is involved each time an exporter sends a consignment. With open policies, on the other hand, shipments are insured automatically.
In terms of coverage, there are three types of marine insurance clauses: Institute Cargo Clauses A, B, and C. While Clause A provides maximum coverage, Clause C provides basic risk coverage.
The coverage provided by marine insurance can be understood by going through the risks handled by the various insurance types. Institute Cargo Clause C provides basic coverage and includes a restricted list of risk covers. It covers the shipment against events such as fire, discharge of cargo in case of distress, explosion, accidents like sinking, capsizing, derailment, collision, etc.
Institute Cargo clause B offers an additional layer of protection. Not only does it include all the risk covers provided under Clause C, but it also covers the shipment against events such as earthquake, volcanic eruption, and damage due to rainwater, seawater, river water, etc., and loss to package overboard or during loading and unloading.
Institute Cargo Clause A provides maximum coverage as it covers all risk of loss or damage to the goods. Apart from the risks covered under Clauses B and C, it also covers losses due to breakage, chipping, denting, bruising, theft, non-delivery, all water damage, etc.
Risks such as wars, strikes, riots, and civil commotions are not covered under the institute cargo clauses. However, the insurer may provide this cover on payment of additional premium.