Poaching vessels in insurance controversy

Many vessels fishing illegally and causing damage to fisheries and global fish stocks, are still covered by marine insurance, according to researchers from the University of British Columbia.

The journal “Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment” found that many illegal, unreported and unregulated vessels – so-called IIUs – had third-party liability coverage, despite being named on many ocean watchdog lists.

The research team looked at 94 IIUs and 837 legal vessels, and found that several “well-known, notorious fishing vessels”, had P&I cover. Research team leader Dana Miller – a marine scientist and expert on fisheries policy – said that the fact that these were well-known pirate vessels was simply not on the radar of the insurance companies. Five of the 94 IIUs had outstanding “purple notices” issued by Interpol – requests for international co-operation that could lead to arrest – and yet were still insured.

The paper claimed that “restricting or eliminating access to insurance for IIUs could alter the associated balance of costs and benefits in favour of reducing IIU fishing activity”.

The impact of this was looked at in a conceptual model. This found that the expected damage from an accident was larger than the expected out-of-pocket expense from insurance premiums, meaning that being insured added economic value to piracy. However, the research did not address the paradox that international law requires vessels over 1,000 gross tons in size to have P&I cover, without making exceptions for the legal or illegal functioning of the vessel.

The research also covers vessels on the high seas, whereas the bulk of illegal fishing takes place within coastal economic zones up to 200 nautical miles from the coast.