At Shipowners Claims Bureau, Inc., the Manager of the American Club, we aim to provide the highest level of service on every single claim. Our claims team is well experienced in all phases of P&I insurance, FD&D matters, and Charterers' risks. Significantly, our claims executives include: maritime lawyers from the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Greece, and Turkey; former seamen who sailed as senior officers aboard bulkers, tankers, passenger ships and other vessels engaged in worldwide trade; average adjusters; senior surveyors; and individuals with P&I correspondency backgrounds. Moreover, in this era of globalization, speaking the language of our membership is another strength of the Club. Our staff is fluent in many languages, including Greek, Chinese, French, Hindi, Italian, Spanish, Turkish and Korean. In short, our claims team is a highly skilled, dedicated, and motivated group that stands ready to assist you.
From a logistical standpoint, the Managers are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to assist our membership in the handling of its claims. Our offices span four continents and our geographic locations ensure that a member of our claims handling team will be available to help you at any time. With offices in New York, Houston, London, Piraeus, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, we are accessible wherever our services are required.
Large claim or small, we rely on our maritime, commercial, and legal experience and expertise to provide each Member with pragmatic and cost-effective solutions from the first notice of claim until its conclusion. Our overriding goal is to minimize our Members' losses and proactively seek a reasonable result, all the while working with and respecting the Members' wishes. To achieve this goal, we utilize not only the resources available to us within our own company, but also our worldwide network of listed correspondents -- many of whom are exclusively listed by us -- as well as any outside lawyers and consultants retained to assist in our more complex matters.
From handling the individual claim to monitoring prevailing claims trends to managing the entire membership's claims portfolio, teamwork is our fundamental philosophy here at the Club. And the final component to this team ethos is our close communication, partnership and cooperation with each of our Members.
New Claims Matters
All new claims matters should be addressed to the Club by electronic mail (e-mail) in the first instance. However, where time is of the essence, any such initial written notice should be followed up by telephone to the Manager's office which is in the most convenient time frame to the incident.
Members are encouraged to report their claims to any open office, which will then respond to the claim regardless of where it occurred. Thereafter, the claim may be re-assigned to a claims executive in a more appropriate geographical office, dependent upon the nature of the case, the expertise required, and the availability of the Club's resources.
Members must promptly notify the Club of all incidents which may give rise to a claim. Traditionally, such prompt notice means to contact us immediately after the incident. The first several hours following an incident are crucial for the Club to properly attend and take all necessary steps to minimize the Member's exposures and liabilities.
As mentioned above, our correspondents are an integral part of your claims handling network. For this reason, we would encourage the Member or the Master of an entered vessel to directly contact our listed correspondent (with copy to the Club) when claims occur in more remote locations from one of our four offices. All of our correspondents are well-versed in P&I matters, experts in their regions, and are familiar with the Club's reporting and invoicing requirements.
The Managers strive to respond to all new claims matters within one business day from receipt of the first advice of a claim. Any such initial advice will include the Club's Claim Reference Number as well as the name of the claims handler allocated to the matter. It is essential for efficient servicing that the vessel name, description of incident, date of the incident, and file number be included in all correspondence.
What do Members need to consider when claims occur?
All Members are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Club Rules, their specific terms of entry as they appear on the Certificate of Entry, and any other Club requirements or guidance. The Club's website should be constantly referred to for Circulars, Member Alerts, contact information, Club Rules and the up-to-date List of Correspondents.
The Managers constantly monitor the membership's claims developments and trends, and analyze the causes of major claims (e.g., both in terms of incurred value and frequency of incidence). When appropriate, further information will be given by the Managers via Club Circulars, Member Alerts or Loss Prevention materials.
Although the very nature of claims will differ from case to case, there are some basic duties and obligations that the Member must follow in the context of a claim. While these key elements in the claims handling process are set forth in the Club Rules and Circulars, they can be generally summarized hereunder:
The Member should promptly notify the Managers of any new incidents for which it is insured.
The Member should refrain from instructing any lawyers, surveyors or other consultants without first consulting with and obtaining from the Managers their written consent for any such retention in connection with a covered incident.
Members should not rely upon the ship's agent or manning agent to facilitate the handling of any claim. The Member's interests are best handled by the Club and its assigned Correspondents who possess the proper knowledge, experience and expertise to handle claims efficiently and effectively.
The Member has a continuing obligation to take all steps as may be reasonable for the purpose of averting or minimizing any liability or expense in respect whereof it may be insured by the Club.
The Member has an ongoing duty to cooperate with the Managers with respect to the gathering of documents and information in the Member's custody or control which will assist in defending against any claims or prosecuting any rights of recovery against third parties.
Whenever required by the Managers, the Member must aid in obtaining witnesses and securing information and evidence in the furtherance of any claim or defense.
The Member must ensure that premium and non-premium invoices owed to the Association are timely paid and that entered vessels comply with all policy warranties and other relevant requirements as per terms of the Club Rules and Certificate of Entry. If accounts are not current or policy warranties are not complied with, the Club may exercise its discretion to refrain from posting security when demanded or to withhold any claims reimbursements from the Member.
A Member should never settle a matter or make an admission with respect to any cost or liability for which it is insured without the prior written consent of the Managers.
In order to facilitate a claims reimbursement, the Member must ensure that the following has taken place: (1) that it has made the payment in the first instance, (2) that the reimbursement request includes a cover letter specifically enumerating each and every item of expense to be reimbursed, (3) that any and all such requests must be fully supported with relevant documentation, vouchers, proof of payment, etc., and (4) that the Member's account be up to date. Please be guided accordingly by Circular No. 12/10 The Submission of Claims Reimbursement Requests to the Club: Member Guidelines
What should Members expect from the Club?
Because of the variety and complexity of claims presented to the Club, it is not always possible to define specific milestones and deadlines for the handling and development of each claim file. Nevertheless, our service standards require that:
The appointed claims executive responds promptly to all matters and that the response time reflects the urgency of the situation.
The Member or his appointed broker is promptly notified in the event that the Club receives notice of a potential claim from a third party (e.g. correspondent, recovery agent, charterer, etc.).
No security is issued to a third party without the prior written authority or consent of the Member.
A reasonable estimate of the Member's potential liability (including expected fees and other costs) is made in respect of each claim file and that amount will be recorded on the Member's loss record.
The estimate will be periodically reviewed and amended as appropriate during the life of the file.
Prompt reimbursement of claims payments made by the Member after submission to the Club with all the relevant and requisite supporting documents and vouchers. Please remember that any such payments will be delayed if premium is overdue for payment to the Association.
Large claim or small, we strive to provide the highest level of claims handling service to our Members. We look forward to working with you and to being of service to you.