Insurers temper optimism

The recovery in the London marine and aviation insurance market is continuing despite the spate of disasters such as the sinking of the Estonia and the Japanese earthquake, according to the Institute of London Underwriters.

But Len Campbell, chairman, warned yesterday that increased competition in the market could plunge the business back into losses. He was speaking at the annual meeting of the ILU, which represents the company marine and aviation insurance market.

According to the annual report: "The London market, which in the late 1980s and early 1990s was riven by a combination of soft pricing and huge losses, has made a respectable recovery, although there have been casualties along the way and the recovery isby no means complete."

Although the figure for shipping tonnage lost last year is expected to be the second-worst since the early 1980s, the financial losses for underwriters are not expected to be significntly greater than in 1993 because of the preponderance of old tonnage lost.

Aviation insurers had their worst year for claims, with airline losses estimated at $2.2bn, greatly above the premium income. ILU members took in premiums totalling £294m.