Marine Insurance

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Insurance policies, except for life and personal accidents, are subject to the principle of indemnity. Marine insurance policies are also contracts of indemnity. The principle of signing the contract in utmost good faith is an important application of indemnity in Marine Insurance Policies.

Why do only narrow definitions of indemnity apply to Insurance?

As per the Indian Contract Act of 1872, insurance only applies a narrow interpretation of indemnity. As per the law, any indemnity document covers risk or loss arising due to human conduct, self, or third party. Losses caused by natural reasons like fire may not qualify as a contract of indemnity.

Why is Marine Insurance a contract of indemnity?

Going by its definition, a marine insurance policy aims to reduce the financial loss occurring to an insured’s property during maritime transport. It covers any loss or damage suffered by the insured cargo due to accidents and mishaps that might happen. The insurer has a legal obligation to provide financial indemnity for accidents. 

The insurer is liable to pay the value of loss agreed upon; only when it is proven that the proximate cause of the peril is insured. Therefore, the principle of indemnity does apply to marine insurance policies.

A marine insurance contract is a legal agreement where the insurer indemnifies the insured against agreed-upon losses. The insurer will indemnify the insured to the extent specified in the insurance contract.

The extent of indemnity or insurance coverage is subject to the following conditions.

  • The onus of proving the event lies on the insured
  • The extent of financial indemnity depends on the insurer’s liability and the property’s market value.
  • Financial indemnity is provided only for insured proximate causes

The Measure of Indemnity in Marine Insurance

The measure of indemnity is defined as follows:

  • Cost of repair vs. Sum Insured: The cost of repair of the insured ship or cargo is payable only up to the sum insured. After applying natural deductibles; i.e. compulsory deductible, depreciation, etc.
  • Indemnity is based on the percentage of loss; i.e. if the loss is 100% indemnity is also 100%, but when the loss is 40% indemnity also reduces to 40% of the sum insured (or insured value).

Basis of Indemnity

The basis of indemnity may define by adhering to the Principle of Indemnity by the insurer, and it can be any of the following:

  • Repair costs along with related expenses on dismantling, transportation, and re-establishing the damaged equipment.
  • If the repair/recovery cost is more than the cost of equipment/cargo the insurer pays the cost of replacement (up to the sum insured).
  • In case the cargo or object of insurance destroys, the insurer will bear the cost of replacing the object with another similar model, design, and capacity, subject to the sum insured.
  • In the case of ships and used goods, reasonable depreciation may apply based on their functional life.

In conclusion, the application of indemnity in marine insurance policies is crucial for providing financial protection and ensuring coverage for losses in the maritime industry. Understanding its principles and implications is essential for both insurers and policyholders to navigate the complexities of marine insurance.

Case on Indemnity in Marine Policy

Emmerson Lines faced a beaching of one of its vessels carrying goods belonging to five different exporters. The containers on the ship belong to the shipping company and not to the exporters. Who are only responsible for packing their shipment in the manner they deem fit for long voyages.

The loss for Emmerson was estimated at USD 400,000. And the exporters after salvage stand to lose about USD 20,000, USD 50,000, USD 700,000, USD 550,000, and USD 80,000.

The loss of containers is not added to the total loss of any party as they have been recovered, but the cargo inside such containers has been lost. The liability of the insurer to the exporters stands only up to the cost of lost goods plus 10 – 20% of the profit loss.

For Emmerson Lines, the loss payable by the marine hull insurer stands at the expense of recovery and repair of the ship which is USD 400,000.

The Repairable Damage: Applicability of Indemnity in Marine Insurance 

The exporter encountering a loss of USD 700,000 had been exporting 5 high-capacity machines (each costing USD 200,000) for automobile manufacturing. Out of five:

  • Two of the damaged machines were beyond repair, and needed to replace (cost of replacement USD 400,000),
  • Two other damaged machines can repair for USD 150,000 and USD 70,000
  • The cost of recovering these machines was USD 50,000 and
  • Transporting to the nearest harbour and storage cost was USD 30,000 for all repairable and recovered machines.

About The Author


MBA Insurance and Risk

With extensive experience in the insurance industry, Simran is a seasoned writer specializing in articles on marine insurance for SecureNow. Drawing from 5 years of expertise in the field, she possesses a comprehensive understanding of the complexities and nuances of marine insurance policies. Her articles offer valuable insights into various aspects of marine insurance, including cargo protection, hull insurance, and liability coverage for marine-related risks. Renowned for their insightful analysis and informative content, Simran is committed to providing readers with actionable information that helps them navigate the intricacies of marine insurance with confidence.