What you need know about freight claims

Agnes Csorba working in our office.

As a cargo insurer, you give your clients peace of mind. Sinking, collision, stranding, fire, thieves, jettison… are all perils of the sea that may end up in loss or damage to cargo. By taking out insurance, the policyholder is protected from any resulting financial loss.

However, clients are unlikely to remember your skill, care and diligence in helping them purchase or renew cargo insurance. It’s a given that you’ll be on your best behaviour when you’re trying to sell them an insurance policy.

Do you know what sticks, though? The quality of your claims service. And this is never truer than when a policyholder suffers a complicated loss event, which may lead to lengthy claims handling and legal disputes.

Your freight claims procedure has an impact on how you’re perceived in the market and it may set you apart from the competition… for good or bad.

Freight claims handling isn’t a walk in the park. Based on our experience, here’s what customers expect from you when they report a cargo claim:

Resourcefulness & troubleshooting skills

Efficient claims handling is all about crafting the right strategy to allow your customers to get back to business ASAP. If the future of a commercial relationship seems compromised, if a vessel is being held back due to unreasonable demands, if administrative and legal issues become a stumbling block… Claims handlers need to look beyond formal rules and dig into practical and commercial realities.

You must think out of the box to provide solutions allowing the assured to resume what they are there for: shipping.

Unbiased management

Make sure to seek objective advice from independent surveyors and loss adjusters in order to quantify larger losses. Together with legal advisors, these professionals will ensure that claims investigation and assessment overcome any implicit biases.

Centralised handling

The assured should liaise with one single decision maker when an emergency arises and during the ensuing claims settlement process. Although H&M policies tend to be insured by a group of insurers, one of them should be vested with the power to act on their behalf in claims-related issues. Having a claims leader to relate to will make the assured feel that they are in good hands, rather than being passed around like a hot potato.

On a different note, having a single organisation involved in relation to both H&M and P&I results in all parties being aligned to find the most rational, cost-effective and less risky course of action. Information is shared and decisions are made faster, leaving the allocation of costs and any residual risks for a later stage.

In-depth knowledge

Clients will expect you to navigate two core areas with ease:

  • Technical maritime expertise: you need to understand the situation the vessel may be facing, as well as the salvage, removal and repair processes.
  • Maritime law, including charterparty law and international conventions: this allows you to break down the consequences of the different options under consideration.

Global capacity

Knowing where a maritime casualty will happen would make its handling much easier. However, in the absence of a crystal ball 😉, it’s crucial that you have access to a global network of competent local service providers.

Depending on the type of accident, you may have to hire an experienced lawyer to deal with local authorities. Perhaps you’ll need to resort to surveyors to pursue a claim against a third party, or to technical expertise for a vessel repair service. Having a global support network is key to overcoming any obstacles that may arise as the claim unfolds.

Round-the-clock availability

New York is the city that never sleeps… and the shipping industry follows suit. Casualties may happen at any time of the day or night in different time zones.

That’s why a 24/7 emergency phone service for claims handling is a must. But not any operator can be on the other end of the line. Customers expect to receive immediate, effective answers, so your call centre must be manned by experienced claims people who won’t hesitate to take any required action.

Letters of undertaking (LOU)

The assured’s major concern in the face of a casualty is the resulting delay to the onward carriage of the cargo. In collisions and other incidents with a liability potential, the claims handler may have to put up LOU or bank guarantees to minimise interruption to the vessel’s voyage.

Accurate documentation processing

It may seem that there’s no secret to issuing claims-related documentation. At the end of the day, it’s all formulas and legalese. Well, let’s not play down its importance. Submitting the correct documents within the stipulated timeframe is key to ensuring that claims are compensated sooner than later.

As an insurer, you’re bound to be well-acquainted with every step the claims process entails. However, it may pay off to take this heavy burden off your plate.

Expert claims professionals can help you by:

  • Streamlining your claims handling processes
  • Focusing on risk mitigation, as well as claims response
  • Implementing preventive measures
  • Lessening the amount of the claim
  • Ensuring the claimant has adhered to the insurance clauses
  • Recovering losses from liable parties

Talk about a win-win situation: you’ll be saving precious time while someone else looks after your interest. But, most importantly, your freight claims handling will help you earn your customers’ loyalty and set you apart from other insurers.

Would you like to see how easy it is to file a claim with our expert team? Put us to the test

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