(EnergyAsia, February 6 2015, Friday) — UK-based Seacurus said it is offering insurance coverage on pirate attacks against oil tankers, cargoes and crew transiting the South China Sea, Malacca Straits, Indonesian Archipelago and Gulf of Guinea.

The cover is being offered to customers’ existing Kidnap & Ransom (KR) insurance policies in response to the rising incidents and threats of piracy in these areas.

Citing the International Maritime Bureau, the specialist marine insurance intermediary said Southeast Asia accounted for three-quarters of global maritime piracy last year after a surge in tanker hijackings helped to fuel a 22% jump in armed robbery and pirate attacks on ships in the region.

There were 183 actual and attempted incidents of piracy and robbery involving ships in Southeast Asian waters last year, compared to 150 in 2013.  In the Gulf of Guinea, cargo theft is likely to remain on the agenda of Nigeria-based criminal gangs throughout 2015.

“The criminal reach demonstrated by last year’s hijack of the tanker Kerala coupled with the number of successful and attempted attacks in 2014 and the lack of any evidence that such gangs have been neutralised suggests that further attempts at cargo theft will take place in 2015 across the region,” said Denis Nifontov, Head of Marine K&R at Seacurus. The company believes traditional marine K&R cover must evolve to provide the assurance for the heightened risks.

“The modus operandi of Southeast Asian and Gulf of Guinea criminal gangs differs from the Somalian piracy model.  Ships’ crews are regularly exposed to life-threatening situations as criminals take control of and ransack vessels, stealing valuable petro-chemical cargoes for commercial gain,” said Mr Nifontov.

Seacurus said the new cover recognises the need to protect crews against the potential for a kidnapping situation, and ship and cargo owners against the risk of business interruption and property theft.

In addition to the benefits of a US$1 million marine K&R policy, the cover includes additional benefits as loss of hire (US$500,000), loss or theft of cargo (US$500,000), loss of bunkers (US$250,000), and loss or theft of money (US$50,000) – all within an aggregate policy limit of US$5 million.

Mr Nifontov said shipowners, charterers and cargo interests — who can be added to the policy as co-insureds to cover their own interests in the voyage — can buy US$5 million of cover for a seven-day voyage for a typical premium cost of US$1,250, subject to an assessment of the usual underwriting information.

As a result, he said all parties can protect their standard marine insurances and insurance records from the potential for costly claims, whilst negating the need for costly and time-consuming recovery actions and General Average settlements.

Founded in 2004, Seacurus Ltd is an FCA-regulated insurance broker, specialising in bespoke revenue protection cover for the maritime industry. It is a market leader in the design and implementation of solutions to protect companies from unforecasted balance-sheet impacts, including credit default, charter party cancellations, hijackings and voyage disruptions caused by political events.

Formed in 2007, Barbican Group Holdings is an insurance group writing business predominantly through its syndicates at Lloyd’s. It also has a non-Lloyd’s financial solutions business based in Guernsey which offers insurance and reinsurance programmes to the global market.

Piracy in Asian waters last year reached its highest levels since the ReCAAP Information-Sharing Centre started keeping records in 2006.

According to the piracy watch centre, there were more than 170 actual or attempted sea attacks in Indonesia, the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca and Strait of Singapore. The number of incidents surpassed the previous record of 167 in 2010.

Of growing concern is that the pirates are also more violent and desperate, said ReCAAP.