Did British insurance sink this ship?

Outdated information, tenuous links sealed this vessel’s fate

Did British insurance sink this ship?



When the 19,000 gross ton bulk carrier MV Rubymar entered the Red Sea just a few weeks ago, the captain knew that the area was dangerous, but he also knew that the Houthi rebels were targeting UK and US owned ships. His vessel was Belize flagged, and Lebanese owned. His assessment was that the risks offered by the Houthis were worth avoiding the 3,000-6,000 mile detour offered by a trip around the Cape of Good Hope.

On February 18, two Houthi missiles hit the ship, forcing the entire crew to abandon the terminally stricken vessel. What the captain didn’t realize was that the ship had two British indicators linked to it - it was insured by Thomas Miller Specialty, a commercial managing general agency (MGA) which manages a GWP of over $1.6 billion writing a variety of niche and specialist lines of business, and that the ship’s Lebanese operator was inaccurately connected to a UK residential address in the Equasis public database.

The Department for Transport criticized the attack, acknowledging Rubymar’s minimal connections to the UK.

The inaccurately connected UK residential address in the Equasis public shipping database has not been associated with Rubymar’s owner, Mr. Hassan Chahadah, for several years. The real operator is a company based in the Marshall Islands and owned by Lebanese national Captain Wael Chahadah. The crew comprised individuals from Egypt, Syria, and the Philippines, with Belize City authorities investigating the incident.

The ship’s owners have since been informed that their insurance with Thomas Miller Specialty did not cover war risks. On February 13, TMS advised clients that their reinsurers were no longer able to support war risks exposures within the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Southern Red Sea.

“As a result we are regrettably forced to alter the scope of coverage afforded to our assureds,” TMS stated in a note to policyholders, stating that the changes would enter into force at noon on February 20, two days after Rubymar was first hit by Houthi missiles.

As environmental concerns grow over the ship’s sinking, which has already resulted in a 29 km oil slick and risks from its substantial cargo of fertilizer, the responsibility for cleanup and potential salvage operations becomes a pressing issue. Negotiations for salvage operations have faltered, hindered by demands for explicit naval support and complications arising from Houthi missile threats.

The Rubymar is currently sunken around 30km west of Mokha, a Red Sea port for Yemen.

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