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Friday, April 16, 2010

Animals (Tomistoma schlegelii) in transit - would you cover the same ???

Movement of people or goods from one location to another is transportation and coverage during this period is Marine Insurance. Many a times, frustrated and exhausted travellers complain of being treated like animals. Today there was an interesting article on a crocodile making a luxury trip from Ahmedabad to Chennai. Exchange of animals between zoos are not uncommon. This time it is a female crocodile - Tomistoma schlegelii (or false gharial), which is threatened with extinction. She is being flown in the cargo hold of a passenger flight for pairing with male at Madras Crocodile bank. Tomistoma schlegelii, a freshwater reptile native to Malaysia and Sumatra resembles a crocodile with a very thin and elongated snout, which is thicker than gharial.

The transportation is to take place in a temperature regulated container and obviously this will be kept segregated from the rest of the cargo by a wire mesh. What is of interest to us is not the ‘breeding loan’ arrangement or its matchmaking but the potential insurance coverage of such transits.

In Kerala, quite frequently one could see elephants astride trucks. Movement of cattle – buffalo, sheep etc., by truck are also common. Livestock would be of high value and would be transported carefully. These being transits of shorter duration, perhaps no special skill is required in drafting a policy covering these. At the outset, everything would seem simple – whether the voyage policy should offer coverage for accidental death or injuries arising out of fire, accidents to carrying vehicle (very basic cover) or an increased coverage is sought would be the Q. Theft or non delivery could also be perils. Cattle, bloodstock, livestock, sheep, goats, poultry, zoo animal, deer, elephant, game birds, dogs, cats and pet animals, exotics and marine animals all could be the subject matter of insurance.

When it comes to rating, there could be no actuarial tables and perhaps would be fixed arbitrarily – raised or lowered by the experience or more by the perception of the risk. Many years ago, I came across a proposal when an Amusement park imported couple of exotic sea lions and dolphins for game show in India and that was fraught with dangers as there could be issues of behaviour of the animal, acclimatisation, stress, adapatability, medical care available, climatic change, temperature maintenance, handling and more. The duration required to be covered could be : quarantine prior to departure, transit and period after arrival before delivery at destination and the perils could be accident, sickness, disease, Govt. denying entry, & more.............

Though there are specialised non institute clauses for providing coverage to livestock, no standard form is available for animals in transit and coverage thoughtlessly on Institute cargo clauses (All risks) could be an invite to disaster. The Insurer need to analyse the proposal and understand the various requirements including feed and watering as also accompaniment of veterinarian during the transit (if required).

Mere certification of good health from any Health authority may not be of great help as the physical conditions surrounding a given risk at its natural habitat would be entirely different when the same is to be shifted to another region, with different climatic and feed conditions. Each risk presents a separate and distinct problem, and must be considered on its own merits, taking into consideration the physical hazards, peculiar to the particular risks, the moral hazard, insurable value, etc.

Some basic precautionary study in the details of serological tests, vaccination, quarantine, customs etc., preliminary to the transport and selection of animal could be of relevance and help. The animal needs to be treated / immunised for parasites and against respiratory diseases. Besides climate adjustment, another important aspect is to ensure that the animal is not wary and frightened as they would be difficult to handle and hence they need acclimatisation to the type and size of pen, crate or box or container in which they are to be transported. Whether they are moved singly or in groups also needs to be ascertained. Suitable feeding and watering and ensuring that these are available and presented throughout the entire journey is to be guaranteed. Depending on the region where transportation is to occur, clothing, hoods, blankets, blinkers, sheets, knee caps and bandages are to be determined. Animals are to be given adequate rest before loading and tranquilisers should not be used until sedation is compulsorily required.

The transporting wagon, vehicle, container needs to be thoroughly cleansed and disinfected. The planning of journey with consideration for the route, time, distances, stages and stopping places are to be well drawn. Animals which are likely to give birth during transport shall not be considered for transportation and coverage.

The loading, supervising, handling, unloading and delivery are to be properly planned and if required to be documented properly. Lighting also needs to be appropriate depending upon the subject matter of transport and insurance. Animals other than aquatic animals should have sufficient room to stand in its natural position having clear head room for air circulation and well ventilated.

The valuation of the animal is also fraught with innate difficulties. Policy coverage could be limited covering the risks of death / mortality from specified causes including breakdown of refrigeration mechanism or on wider cover including the risks of theft and non delivery.

Well, if you come across such a proposal, would you be inclined to offer any coverage ?? Marine insurance is always interesting !

With regards – S Sampathkumar.

PS : Just in case you were worried about the safety of the transit - either wearing the hat of an Insurer or as an animal lover - the giant croc reached Chennai safely and here is a photo (courtesy : Times of India) showing the way it was transported.

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