Risks emanating from space pose a serious and real threat to the (re)insurance sector. Space debris and satellite collisions have the potential to cause losses in the millions or even billions of dollars, while extreme space weather has the potential to cause systemic failures across the globe. Although both risks are difficult to quantify given the uncertainty involved, (re)insurers have a responsibility to promote risk mitigating measures as the potential costs involved are considerable.
Archive for the ‘Casualty’ Category
As the majority of historical events illustrate, higher geomagnetic latitude countries such as the United States, Canada and Nordic countries are most at risk of suffering the effects of extreme solar storms. (1) However, lower geomagnetic latitude regions such as the Caribbean and more central and southern parts of Europe could also be affected during extreme events. Other factors such as geology, proximity to the coast and location and fragility of power grid infrastructure help determine the risk posed by solar activity.
The severity of space weather varies as the Sun follows a consistent 11-year cycle of changing solar activity. The next cycle peak is expected between 2013 and 2015. Extreme geomagnetic events are nevertheless relatively rare, with return period estimates ranging from between 100 and 200 years to up to 500 years. (1) Less severe events are more frequent and often occur on an annual basis. The cumulative impact of milder disturbances should not be underestimated, however, particularly as our dependency on power increases and power infrastructure in some countries fatigues with age.
1. Super Typhoon Haiyan: Super Typhoon Haiyan meets or surpasses the record of the strongest landfalling tropical cyclone in recorded history, and is among the strongest ever recorded. Haiyan made landfall during the early morning hours of November 8 near Guiuan, with estimated 1-minute wind speeds of 185-195 mph (300-315 km/hr).
2. Demand for Asia Pacific Catastrophe Reinsurance at a Record High in 2013: Total Asia Pacific catastrophe limit purchased in 2013 increased for the tenth year in a row, but once again failed to keep pace with strong gross domestic product growth in the region, according to a new report released today by Guy Carpenter.
3. The Reality of Global Warming: The increase in the global mean air temperature, as compared to the 1951-1980 average, is depicted in Figure F-2, and the surge in average oceanic heat content for the 0-700 meter layer is depicted in Figure F-3. The increase in oceanic heat content in particular is notable as it takes a very large amount of energy to heat such a volume of water.
4. Cyber Risk and its Impact on Supply Chains: Cyber risks are not isolated and are usually connected to other risks. Many companies that are exposed to cyber risks are, for example, also exposed in turn to risks to their supply chain. Due to technological innovation and advances, many parts of a company’s or industry’s supply chain have become interconnected and automated. Technology is indeed a critical enabler of a supply chain’s operations. Therefore a cyber attack has the potential to put an entire company’s supply chain at risk. Cyber security and supply chain risk management must therefore be considered in conjunction with one another.
5. Guy Carpenter Extends Coverage of Industrial Park Database to Include Vietnam, Malaysia and South Korea: In 2011, Thailand experienced its worst flooding in years with insured losses estimated at around USD15 billion, of which the Thai General Insurance Association attributed more than 90 percent arising from commercial risks located within industrial parks. As industrial parks are common in several countries in the region, Guy Carpenter developed a database of digitized boundaries of these parks to support its clients’ ability to analyze the potential for catastrophic losses arising from exposures located within park boundaries.
6. New Geographic Markets to Drive Profitable Growth in 2014, According to Second Annual Guy Carpenter Survey: Expansion into new geographic markets, new products and access to new distribution channels will be the primary drivers of profitable growth in 2014, according to a new survey released today by Guy Carpenter.
7. Indexation Clauses in Liability Reinsurance Treaties: A Comparison Across Europe: The Indexation Clause - otherwise referred to as the Stability Clause, Inflation Clause or Severe Inflation Clause - is designed to maintain the real monetary value of the retention and (where applicable) the limit under a long-tail excess of loss reinsurance treaty over the duration of the claims payout pattern.
8. Risk Profile, Appetite and Tolerance: Fundamental Concepts in Risk Management and Reinsurance Effectiveness: Prior to the recent turbulence in the financial markets, insurers and reinsurers were increasing their use of enterprise risk management to make risk and capital management decisions. While this was driven in part by rating agencies and regulators, many carriers began to recognize the value of metric-based frameworks and capital models in evaluating their portfolios.
9. Uncertainty in Catastrophe Models: How Much of it is Reasonable? It seems reasonable to expect a degree of uncertainty in catastrophe model results. It is not uncommon, however, for models to produce results that differ by several factors. In order to assess how much of this uncertainty is epistemic, due to our incomplete knowledge of the physical phenomena involved, this existing uncertainty needs to be quantified.
10. Chart: Guy Carpenter Global Rate on Line Index, January 2013: The Guy Carpenter Global Property Catastrophe Reinsurance Rate on Line index fell marginally at the January 1, 2013, renewal. This is the seventh consecutive annual renewal in which changes to the index have equaled 10 percent or less, indicating a global market with capacity appropriate to meet demand.
Solar weather is a space-related risk that has the potential to cause huge disruption to infrastructure and businesses around the world. Geomagnetic storm activity is not a new development but technological advancements and an increasingly interconnected global economy have resulted in increased vulnerability. Although extreme solar storms are relatively rare, there have been several notable recent events that have had a damaging impact on Earth. More are certain to occur in the future.
Major solar disturbances have the potential to cause significant losses as they can severely disrupt electricity supply, cause satellite damage and trigger GPS signal disturbance. The cascading impact of this would cripple critical infrastructure, including transportation and fuel supplies. Global supply chains would likely fail. If an extreme event were to occur today and result in long-term blackouts across highly populated areas, the impact on society and national economies would be devastating, causing billions or even trillions of dollars of losses. The impact on the (re)insurance sector would also likely be profound, affecting several lines of business.
Space weather refers to the variable conditions on the surface of the sun that can influence the performance of technology on Earth. Sudden bursts of plasma and magnetic field structures from the Sun’s atmosphere (called coronal mass ejections (CME)), together with solar flares, can cause disturbances that are capable of impacting satellites and technology on Earth’s surface in a matter of hours or days.
Severe CME events that hit Earth have the potential to cause significant damage and disruption. Although we can currently anticipate their arrival (the waves can reach Earth within 14 hours), the severity of the event cannot be determined until they are about an hour away. Mitigation by way of forecasting is therefore not currently possible.
While the Earth’s atmosphere acts as a protective barrier against the milder effects of CMEs, extreme events have the potential to impact the Earth’s magnetic fields and trigger geomagnetically induced currents (GICs). GICs flow through expensive conducting structures that are grounded to the surface and, depending on the extent of the disturbance to the Earth’s magnetic field, can massively disrupt electricity supplies by damaging transformers or tripping relays. Earthed electrical conducting material such as pipelines and railway lines could also be vulnerable.
Severe space weather also produces solar energetic particles, which can permanently damage high-value satellites in the Earth’s orbit described earlier in the report. Global communication networks, broadcasting and GPS technologies would consequently suffer significant disruption.
Space debris poses a serious risk to operational satellites, particularly in the low earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous orbit (GEO). Indeed, debris amounts are increasing as objects continue to collide with one another, producing more fragments. According to the U.S. Strategic Command’s Space Surveillance Network, more than 20,000 objects above ten centimeters in size are currently orbiting Earth. Of these, only some 1,000 are active satellites. For items measuring between one and ten centimeters, around 500,000 particles are thought to be orbiting Earth. Estimates suggest tens of millions of other particles smaller than one centimeter are circulating the planet. All this material is traveling at several kilometers per second, sufficient velocity to cause significant damage to operational satellites.
The most serious threat to high-value satellites and space infrastructures in the Earth’s orbit today is the risk of collision with other satellites or space debris. As more satellites are sent into the Earth’s orbit to provide services and technology we now take for granted, including global communications and broadcasting, air traffic control, weather forecasting and disaster management, the area is becoming increasingly cluttered with satellites (operational and defunct) and other fragments, enhancing the risk of collision. Although deorbiting strategies are in place for some modern satellites, tens of thousands of objects still circulate the planet at extremely high speeds.
Technological advances have resulted in business being conducted all over the world in an instantaneous manner, meaning supply chain failures can significantly impact companies’ revenue, credibility and reputation. Companies are therefore now far more exposed to external risks than ever before. This has raised (re)insurers’ concerns over the ability of the market to understand the risks that are being underwritten and the viability of offering business interruption/contingent business interruption (BI/CBI) cover. Indeed, some (re)insurers have taken the view that risk management strategies at the company level need to be improved before coverage can be offered.
Changing business environments and the interconnected global economy have created new risks for organizations, which in turn have prompted the need for greater awareness and protection against supply chain disruption. However, while greater awareness is important, it does not always translate into a true understanding of the risk. For example, a recent study conducted by Oliver Wyman in conjunction with the National Association of Corporate Directors (1) showed that 51 percent of those surveyed indicated that they were not provided with adequate information to deliver IT risk oversight.
The Business Continuity Institute’s 2012 Supply Chain Resilience Survey estimates that outsource service provider failure represents one of the most significant causes of supply chain disruption, only lagging behind adverse weather and technology (see Figure F-1). The particular danger represented by the supplier or service provider, especially if it involves an aspect of critical infrastructure, is that the failure is likely to cut across multiple industries and geographies. For example, the disruption caused by a component part of technology used by a power generator does not just shut the utility down - all commercial and residential operations grind to halt.