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G Whyte
G Whyte

What Is Marine Adjusting?

Interview with Mr Gordon Whyte of Richards Hogg Lindley a subsidiary of Charles Taylor Co of UK.

Events- How long have you been in this business?

Gordon Whyte- I joined Richards Hogg in 1975. I spent all my life in the Glasgow office in Scotland except for two short periods I spent in Australia and Kuwait. The Glasgow office has been engaged in marine insurance claims concerning Iranian vessels for a long time even in the years before I joined Richards Hogg. The work I do is to assist the owners by preparing their claims to submit to their underwriters, i.e. insurers, and to seeing that the insurers make payment to the shipowners. I have traveled to Tehran several times since about 1980-81.

E- What is the exact nature of your work?

Oil platform GW- The work that I do is such that almost all the contacts I have with Iranians is with shipowner and insurers. The main shipowners are Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and the National Iranian Tanker Corporation but over the last 5-10 years there have been emerging private organizations, smaller of course than the national shipping lines, but I am sure they will develop quite rapidly into important companies. The company I work for, Richards Hogg Lindley, has been wholly owned by Charles Taylor Co or CTC, since 1998. Within the many areas that CTC are involved in, are marine, aviation and energy adjusting, managing Mutual Insurance Companies etc. We have a very large number of offices and many correspondents working with us, around the world, such as IGS with which we have a joint venture named CTC-IGS Kish Ltd.

Experience has taught us that in some areas we should use local people whenever possible, and wherever these people have the expertise. Smaller, less complex claims can be handled locally and in the local language without the need to go to London or Glasgow and encounter much higher expenses.

Of course, training is always necessary and we have invested some time and money training people from our joint venture here in Iran, CTC-IGS (Kish) Ltd. It is always helpful to have local people to gather the necessary information and to communicate with local companies. In Iran we don't have much difficulty because the people we deal with are very professional and can generally understand the issues. But even so it is very convenient to have CTC-IGS based here in Tehran.

E- Aside from language, do you find that you can communicate with the Iranians you have to deal with, professionally?

GW- Yes, I do think so. There is a need for us to explain why we require the documentation needed for our claim adjustment. There are many international rules, practices and legal authorities that we have to refer to, when making up an adjustment. We cannot expect anyone to know all these things unless they are, like us, fully involved in this work. The Iranians we deal with are mainly ex-seagoing people who know and understand about their ships, involving the main and auxiliary engines etc. whereas I am concerned with the Insurance conditions, the relevant laws and of course, the cost of repairs. We like to share our knowledge and know-how with our clients in Iran and when they tell me what went wrong technically, I can tell them how we shall present any proper claim they may have, in order that it can be recovered from the Insurers.

E- Some time ago Events had an interview with the managing director of IRISL and he told us that his shipping company was more or less the best and the largest worldwide. Is that really so?

Oil platform GW- Yes, it is. In fact IRISL is very professionally run and their ships are always in immaculate shape. I earn my living by handling Ship Insurance claims and if I had to rely on IRISL entirely I would be a poor man because they have very few incidents and casualties. The same must also be said of NITC. They too are well run and their ships are very well maintained. The reason is that they have selected good people, both crews and managers, and have trained them very well.

E- How do you see the future? Do you really think there will be private insurance and shipping companies?

GW- I don't know about how private shipping companies will develop but there are signs that the industry is becoming separated from the State, or denationalized. But privatization of insurance companies seems to be a real growth area. In the past there was little competition among the State Insurance companies and the consumer had little choice. The private insurance companies will develop by having the ability to reinsure with other international markets. For instance, a very large financial risk will generally not be insured with one company 100 per cent. Whilst it may look that way in the policy, the original Insurer will reinsure a large part of it, so that in the event of a major claim, the original Insurer will collect contributions from the reinsuring Companies to help pay. The reinsurers can be anywhere in the world - Norway, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the UK etc.

Iran National Shipping Lines for instance may be insured with an Iranian insurance company but because of the large exposure, the Iranian insurance company in turn insures a large proportion of this on the international insurance market - as much as 80 or 90%. Because of the tremendously large number of ships Iranian national lines possess and operate, no single insurance company would accept the whole risk and so the insurance is generally always divided among a large number of insurance companies, so that the risk is spread.

Over the last three to four years there has been a large development in Iran's insurance industry. There have been six or seven private insurance companies starting up. Of course these are mainly small companies, although one of these companies that I visited yesterday had started with a capital of 25 million dollars and has turned into a company with a capital of 125 million dollars over a two year period which is quite a significant growth for a new insurance company.

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