Sub-Zero Sucker Punch
During the cold weeks that follow the winter holidays, a low-pressure warm front moves quickly into the New England region, along with a high-pressure Arctic cold front. The two masses collide, causing heavy rains that turn to ice by the time they reach the ground.
Layers of ice blanket an area from Maine to Maryland and as far west as Ohio, making it look like a world made of pure crystal.
Northeasterners shrug and hunker down for a few days of wild weather. A thinner layer of ice reaches west to St. Louis and south to Charlotte. Southeasterners grumble about the polar vortex interfering with their routine.
By the second day, trees fall and rooftops groan under the weight of nearly 3 inches of ice. Dozens of transmission towers buckle and collapse. Local power lines fall, pulling utility poles down across roadways.
Utility companies shift into crisis mode to assess the damage, which has plunged some homes and businesses into darkness. Utility crews from Georgia and Tennessee are dispatched to help get repair work underway, which is slowed by treacherous road conditions.
The worst, though, is yet to come.
Three days after the first storm hits, a second storm arrives, about 500 miles south. It wallops the Southeast and moves on up the Eastern seaboard, dropping another 2-plus inches of ice over two days. Heavy ice puts a death grip on everything from Memphis to Atlanta and on up through Washington, D.C.
The aging utility infrastructure can’t withstand the ice and winds. The fact that at least half of the Southeast’s utility workers had been deployed north makes matters worse — far worse. Four million customers in Georgia and Alabama alone are without power.
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta is virtually paralyzed, stranding travelers and causing massive delays across the country. Gas stations shut down because pumps are inoperable.
Retailers with backup generators press on as long as they can, but shelves empty quickly of food and other essential goods. Some stores operate on a cash-only basis because payment systems are down.
On the East Coast, more than 50 million people and 3 million businesses are without power. More than 200 transmission towers are badly damaged. Water supply across the entire East Coast is at risk, as treatment plants and pumping stations begin to lose backup power. Cell network circuits become congested, causing delays and weak signals. Some networks fail altogether.
Despite icy roads, millions leave their homes, seeking warmth and shelter. Some die from carbon monoxide poisoning or from blazes caused by open fires in their homes, attempting to keep warm. Many fires burn unchecked, resulting in widespread property damage.
States of emergency are declared for affected major cities. The National Guard is brought in to help clear roads, escort people to emergency shelters, and help maintain civil order among the increasingly frightened and desperate public.
Trees continue to fall for weeks, making power recovery achingly slow. It takes three to four weeks to get to 90 percent recovery for urban centers. Some outlying areas go without power for as long as three months.
Businesses struggle to reopen due to damage and lack of workers, as many have not returned to the area from wherever they sought shelter, or can’t get through to certain areas due to safety hazards.
Hundreds die from hypothermia, starvation, fires, auto accidents and small, localized riots. Tens of thousands more suffer injuries or become seriously ill. The very young, elderly and the poor are hardest hit.
National Geographic’s harrowing docudrama American Blackout depicts the catastrophic repercussions of a 10-day blackout affecting the entire country.
No Escaping Loss
This scenario was created using the Blackout Risk Model, developed through a partnership of Hartford Steam Boiler and Verisk Climate, led by Robin Luo, vice president at HSB; Clifton Lancaster, senior risk analyst at HSB; and Kyle Beatty, president of Verisk Climate.
HSB and Verisk estimate that the frequency of each individual ice storm would be one in 150 years to 200 years. The two storms combined represent a frequency of one in 1,000 years or more.
This scenario loosely resembles a juxtaposition of two historic North American blackout events.
In January 1998, ice pummeled Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick for six straight days, destroying 130 transmission towers and leaving more than 4 million people without power — some for up to a month.
The insured losses from that storm totaled $1.6 billion, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. The total economic costs were estimated between $5 billion and $7 billion.
The second event occurred in August 2013, when a simple circuit overload led to cascading blackouts throughout North America, leaving 50 million people in the United States and Canada without power for up to six days. The estimated total economic cost of the outage was between $6 billion and $8 billion.
Combining the duration, ice load and frigid temperatures of the 1998 event with the coverage footprint of the 2013 event would result in a catastrophe exponentially more devastating than any blackout in North American history.
Some experts downplay the amount of property damage typical for an ice storm, but others say the level of property damage wouldn’t be far behind Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy.
Because of the duration of the power outage and the extreme volume of ice involved, homes and businesses left abandoned would likely succumb to frozen and bursting pipes. Collapsing roofs would lead to additional damage.
Overtaxed emergency responders likely wouldn’t be able to prevent damage caused by the inevitable looting and civil unrest. Fires started by those desperate for warmth could easily burn out of control, consuming neighboring properties in the process, especially in urban centers.
Contaminated water supplies would cause lasting problems that would take months to remedy. Lack of running water would create sanitation hazards.
Industries needing refrigeration, such as restaurants, supermarkets and pharmaceutical companies would suffer heavy losses. Manufacturing would also suffer due to a dependence on power and the difficulty and expense of temporarily relocating equipment.
Of course, that only scratches the surface of business income losses for companies up and down the East Coast, as well as key suppliers and customers across the country.
“Whether you’re impacted directly from the weather or indirectly, I don’t know how anyone escapes some sort of tragedy or economic loss from this,” said Wes Dupont, executive vice president and general counsel of Allied World Assurance Co. Holdings.
Even with power mostly restored in three to four weeks, there would be several more months of clean-up before normal operations resume. Some companies would have difficulty luring back clients that had switched suppliers in the interim.
Small businesses would no doubt be hard hit.
“Small to midsize companies, those that are not able to invest [in a standby power system] … they’re going to struggle,” said Mark Madar, director of risk management and regulatory compliance at CBIZ Risk & Advisory Services. “The companies that do not have a multi-location presence, especially your mom-and-pop types of businesses, they’re the ones who are going to take the hit here.”
But Lou Gritzo, FM Global’s vice president and research manager, said it would be a mistake to downplay the vulnerability of larger companies in this scenario.
“It’s the weakest link scenario,” said Gritzo. “The bigger effects are going to be these cascading failures where one or two pieces of the operation can’t recover and then the entire company experiences the consequences.
“That in turn affects other companies all over the country and all over the world. I think that’s where the biggest impact is going to be,” he said.
Mind the Gaps
For many companies, having a solid business interruption plan will make the difference in whether they make it through such a crisis. More than two in five (43 percent) businesses that experience a disaster and have no emergency plan don’t reopen, according to The Hartford. Of those that do reopen, only 29 percent are still operating two years later.
Even the most sophisticated disaster plan, however, will not shield companies from some degree of loss in an event of this magnitude. Unfortunately for some, the claims process is unlikely to be straightforward.
“The bigger effects are going to be these cascading failures where one or two pieces of the operation can’t recover and then the entire company experiences the consequences. That in turn affects other companies all over the country and all over the world.” —Lou Gritzo, vice president and research manager, FM Global
Blackouts can be a monkey wrench in the works. Companies may assume they’re covered for business losses in the event of a power outage because they have business interruption (BI) coverage — or time element coverage — on their property policies.
But in most cases, BI must be tied to physical damage to an insured’s assets. Several commercial property policies specifically exclude coverage resulting from a utility service interruption that originates away from the insured’s premises.
Standard BI coverage won’t be triggered for businesses that don’t suffer direct physical damage but were forced to close or relocate because of lack of employees or power, or orders from civil authorities to stay away due to safety hazards.
Some larger, sophisticated insurance buyers will have policies that include the necessary extensions needed to trigger the cover, but smaller firms may be left unprotected.
“I think [utility service interruption coverage] is spotty when it comes to small commercial businesses, who would need to ask for those extensions, as well as clients who are on standard boilerplate preprinted forms as opposed to a manuscripted form,” said Duncan Ellis, U.S. property practice leader for Marsh.
Another wording nuance to be aware of, he said, is that some language may provide for damage caused by a power outage, as in the case of a critical manufacturing load destroyed by loss of power in the middle of the process. But the BI side of the policy still may not have an extension for loss of income incurred after the outage.
Even for companies with the right coverage extensions, time durations vary. Some policies may not cover losses related to a service interruption that goes beyond a week or two. In general, many companies could find that their BI losses far exceed limits.
Insurers would see a high volume of contingent business interruption claims from those whose key customers or suppliers were compromised by the event. But the wording of CBI policies is similar to BI policies, and many insureds will find their coverage declaimed.
Companies with a regional base also may face push back from carriers on business income claims, said Mike LoGiudice, managing director of insurance and litigation support for CBIZ Valuation Group. “I might say, ‘I should have done [this amount of business] but for the property loss.’ ”
But the carriers may argue that regardless of damage, your customers would still be out of business themselves, so you wouldn’t have had any income. “They would take into effect the negative impact on your customers,” he said. “It would be a battle.”
Additional 2014 black swan stories:
When the 8.5 magnitude earthquake hits, sea water will devastate much of Los Angeles and San Francisco, and a million destroyed homes will create a failed mortgage and public sector revenue tsunami.
When a nuclear reactor melts down due to a powerful tornado, deadly contamination rains down on a metropolitan area.
7 Emerging Technology Risks
The Risk List is presented by:
Mind the Gap in Global Logistics
Manufacturers and shippers are going global.
As inventories grow, shippers need sophisticated systems to manage it all, and many companies choose to outsource significant chunks of their supply chain management to contracted providers. A recent survey by market research firm Transport Intelligence reveals that outsourcing outnumbers nearshoring in the logistics industry by 2:1. In addition, only 16.7 percent of respondents stated they are outsourcing fewer logistics processes today than they were three years ago.
Those providers in turn take more responsibilities through each step of the bailment process, from processing, packaging and labeling to transportation and storage. Spending in the U.S. logistics and transportation industry totaled $1.45 trillion in 2014 and represented 8.3 percent of annual gross domestic product, according to the International Trade Administration.
“Traditionally these outside parties provided one phase of the supply chain process, perhaps transportation, or just warehousing. Today many of these companies are extending their services and product offerings to many phases of supply chain management,” said Mike Perrotti, Senior Vice President, Inland Marine, XL Catlin.
Such companies are known as third-party logistics (3PL) providers, or even fourth-party logistics (4PL) providers. They could provide transportation, storage, pick-n-pack, processing or consolidation/deconsolidation.
As the provider’s logistics responsibilities widen, their insurance needs grow.
“In the past, the underwriters would piecemeal together different coverages for these logistics providers. For instance, they might take a motor truck cargo policy, and attach a warehouse form, a bailee’s form, other inland marine products, and an ocean cargo form. You would have most of the exposures covered, but when you start taking different products and bolting them together, you end up with gaps,” said Alexander McGinley, Vice President, US Marine, XL Catlin.
A comprehensive logistics form can close those gaps, and demand for such a product has been on the rise over the past decade as logistics providers search for a better way to manage their range of exposures.
“Traditionally these outside parties provided one phase of the supply chain process, perhaps transportation, or just warehousing. Today many of these companies are extending their services and product offerings to many phases of supply chain management.”
–Mike Perrotti, Senior Vice President, Inland Marine, XL Catlin
A Complementary Package
XL Catlin’s Logistics Services Coverage Solutions takes a holistic approach to the legal liability that 3PL providers face while a manufacturer’s stock is in their care, custody and control.
“A 3PL’s legal liability for loss or damage from a covered cause of loss to the covered property during storage, packaging, consolidation, shipping and related services would be insured under this comprehensive policy,” McGinley said. “It provides piece of mind to both the owner of the goods and the logistics provider that they are protected if something goes wrong.”
In addition to coverage for physical damage, the logistics solution also provides protection from cyber risks, employee theft and contract penalties, and from emerging exposures created by the FDA Food Modernization Act.
This coverage form, however, only protects 3PL companies’ operations within the U.S., its territories and possessions, and Canada. Many large shippers also have an international arm that needs the same protection.
XL Catlin’s Ocean Cargo Coverage Solutions product rounds out the logistics solution with international coverage.
While Ocean Cargo coverage typically serves the owner of a shipment or their customers, it can also be provided to the internationally exposed logistics provider to cover the cargo of others while in their care, custody, and control.
“This covers a client’s shipment that they’re buying from or selling to another party while it’s in transit, by any type of conveyance, anywhere in the world,” said Andrew D’Alessio, National Ocean Cargo Product Leader, XL Catlin. “When provided to the logistics company, they in turn insure the shipment on behalf of the owner of the cargo.”
The international component provided by ocean cargo coverage can also eliminate clients’ fears over non-compliance if admitted insurance coverage is purchased. Through its global network, XL Catlin is uniquely positioned as a multi-national insurer to offer locally admitted coverages in over 200 countries.
“In the past, the underwriters would piecemeal together different coverages for these logistics providers. For instance, they might take a motor truck cargo policy, and attach a warehouse form, a bailee’s form, other inland marine products, and an ocean cargo form. You would have most of the exposures covered, but when you start taking different products and bolting them together, you end up with gaps.”
–Alexander McGinley, Vice President, US Marine, XL Catlin
A Developing Need
The approaching holiday season demonstrates the need for an insurance product that manages both domestic and international logistics exposures.
In the final months of the year, lots of goods will be shipped to the U.S. from major manufacturing nations in Asia. Transportation providers responsible for importing these goods may require two policies: ocean cargo coverage to address risks to shipments outside North America, and a logistics solution to cover risks once goods arrive in the United States or Canada.
“These transportation providers are expanding globally while also shipping throughout the U.S. That’s how the need for both domestic and international logistics coverage evolved. Until now there have been few solutions to holistically manage their exposures,” D’Alessio said.
In another example, D’Alessio described one major paper provider that expanded its business from manufacturing to include logistics management. In this case, the paper company needed coverage as a primary owner of a product and as the bailee managing the goods their clients own in transit.
“That manufacturer has a significant market share of the world’s paper, producing everything from copy paper to Bible paper, wrapping paper, magazine paper, anything you can think of. Because they were so dominant, their customers started asking them to arrange freight for their products as well,” he said.
“These transportation providers are expanding globally while also shipping throughout the U.S. That’s how the need for both domestic and international logistics coverage evolved. Until now there have been few solutions to holistically manage their exposures.”
–Andrew D’Alessio, National Ocean Cargo Product Leader, XL Catlin
The global, multi-national paper company essentially launched a second business, serving as a transportation and logistics provider for their own customers. As the paper shipments changed ownership through the bailment process, the company required two totally different types of insurance coverage: an ocean cargo policy to cover their interests as the owner and producer of the product, and logistics coverage to address their exposures as a transportation provider while they move the products of others.
“As a bailee, they no longer own the products, but they have the care, custody, and control for another party. They need to make sure that they have the appropriate insurance coverage to address those specific risks,” McGinley said.
“From a coverage standpoint, this is slowly but surely becoming the new standard. A logistics form on the inland marine side, combined with an international component, is becoming something that a sophisticated client as well as a sophisticated broker should really be asking for,” McGinley said.
The old status quo method of bolting on coverage forms or additional coverages as needed won’t suffice as global shipping needs become more complex.
With one underwriting solution, the marine team at XL Catlin can insure 3PL clients’ risks from both a domestic and international standpoint.
“The two products, Ocean Cargo Coverage Solutions and Logistics Service Coverage Solutions, can be provided to the same customer to really round out all of their bailment, shipping, transportation, and storage needs domestically and around the globe,” D’Alessio said.
The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only. Insurance coverage in any particular case will depend upon the type of policy in effect, the terms, conditions and exclusions in any such policy, and the facts of each unique situation. No representation is made that any specific insurance coverage would apply in the circumstances outlined herein. Please refer to the individual policy forms for specific coverage details. XL Catlin, the XL Catlin logo and Make Your World Go are trademarks of XL Group Ltd companies. XL Catlin is the global brand used by XL Group Ltd’s (re)insurance subsidiaries. In the US, the insurance companies of XL Group Ltd are: Catlin Indemnity Company, Catlin Insurance Company, Inc., Catlin Specialty Insurance Company, Greenwich Insurance Company, Indian Harbor Insurance Company, XL Insurance America, Inc., and XL Specialty Insurance Company. Not all of the insurers do business in all jurisdictions nor is coverage available in all jurisdictions. Information accurate as of December 2016.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with XL Catlin. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.