Message from the President: A challenging start to 2024


By Frédéric Denèfle, IUMI President
In February, my colleagues on the Executive Committee and the Chairs of the Technical Committees and Forums met in London to discuss a range of IUMI business including the upcoming conference in Berlin to celebrate our 150th anniversary; and our longer-term strategy. This is always a useful marker in IUMI’s calendar to take stock of the previous year and to set some objectives and goals for the year ahead. But it will come as no surprise to learn that our informal conversations, outside of the meeting agenda, focused on the events that continue to impact on global shipping and trade and, of course, marine insurance.

The ongoing war in Ukraine coupled with the situation in the Red Sea continue to exercise marine underwriters. This, together with the issues that vessels are facing in the Panama Canal have conspired to challenge some of the long-established sea-routes, forcing ships to transit high-risk areas or take much longer trips to reach their destinations.

Elsewhere in this newsletter you’ll find commentary on the situations in the Red Sea, Suez and Panama Canals but here I’d like to offer some notes on how I see the Ukraine maritime issue developing.

As IUMI, we have continued to closely analyse the various geopolitical issues which have impacted Ukraine since the beginning of the year and I can confirm that marine and transport insurers are still able to provide their support to cover grain shipments through the coastal Ukraine grain corridor. So far, none of the threats caused by the numerous Russian attacks have hindered maritime trade from Ukraine to the rest of the world and shipments from Odessa and other inland ports such as Rina or Izmail on the Danube River have allowed Ukrainian grain to be shipped to global markets.

However, the situation is not easy and many uncertainties remain over Russian mines and other weapons that have the potential to disrupt Ukrainian commercial international trade connections.

The destruction of some harbour loading facilities has created further problems for the Ukrainian authorities but fortunately many of these have been overcome. Grain shipments have been able to depart to feed a large part of the world and to allow agricultural commodity prices to remain at a reasonable average.

Together with inland shipments such as train or truck carriage exports, transport insurers are offering a continuous service to the Ukrainian export community, despite the war. Overall, the volume of grain and other goods shipped from Ukraine has now reached similar levels to those achieved before the Russian invasion.

It’s not been an easy start to the year and I fully expect the challenges to continue for some time to come. IUMI will do its best to keep you informed and to bring the global marine insurance community together to analyse and discuss these important issues. Our annual conference will be a key opportunity to do this where our workshops will be developed around the common theme of “building on 150 years of enabling global commerce”.

I offer you my best wishes for the remainder of the year.

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