Lessons learned from the PRESTIGE case in AGERS’ first working breakfast.

LOURDES AGUANELL EXCELLED IN HER LEAD ROLE AGERS’ first working breakfast was held on the 8th of April, with an attendance of more than eighty people coming from the insurance and risk management sectors aiming to analyse the Prestige case.

AGERS Secretary General Gonzalo Iturmendi began by welcoming those in attendance, thanking each speaker for their collaboration and courage in addressing such a delicate subject, one which remains ongoing whilst awaiting verdict from the Supreme Court. He then presented the working breakfast lead, Lourdes Aguanell, Marine Manager at Eurapco, a unique alliance in Europe formed by seven insurance groups with a portfolio of 49,000 million euros (Caser has been a partner of Eurapco since 2008).

AGERS Breakfast prestigeAfter showing a short video summary of the maritime catastrophe, Lourdes made way for Ernesto Rivera, Partner at Thomas Cooper and specialist in maritime transport and international commerce. He began his speech by explaining the complex regulation included within maritime law which has been applied in similar cases to that of the Prestige.

Following the legal theme, next up was Javier Portales, lawyer at Albors Galiano Portales and specialist in maritime and aeronautical law, plus accidents at sea and maritime insurance. He carried out an in-depth study of the La Coruña Provincial Court ruling which acquitted the accused – the ship’s captain, chief engineer and the Director General of the navy – of crimes against the environment, damage to protected natural area and damage they caused themselves, although the captain was convicted for disobeying authority.

The third presentation was made by Antonio del Corral, Deputy Director of Risk Management for Repsol. He relayed the details of the sophisticated clean-up operation which his company were involved in to extract the remaining oil submerged at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. This was carried out using an innovative method with advanced technology which will be useful for future events of a similar nature.

José Manuel Castillo, representing Mapfre Global Risks and head of their Maritime Department, shared his technical view from the perspective of the various insurance streams brought together in the disaster. He stressed that “the insurers acted appropriately and in accordance with their contracts”.

Ramón Romero, Director of Shipping Operations and Special Risks at brokerage firm Willis, recalled with tremendous realism that “unreasonable expectations were demanded” in the claims of those affected by the contamination.

The presenter on behalf of the risk assessment firm Bureau Veritas, Luis Guerrero, in the capacity of Director of Offshore and the Naval Division in Spain and Portugal, remarked on the role of these companies in the control and supervision of ships which transport such products.

Next to speak was José Luis Heras, representing the Spanish Pool of Environmental Risks, who emphasised the differences in both the regulation and insurance of shipping and the demands of the norms in terms of environmental responsibility.

The last presentation was by retired Admiral Ángel Manuel Tello Valero, who was in charge of the aid deployed by the Spanish forces. He is highly regarded due to his wide range of experience and involvement in rescue missions such as that of the Prestige, the deployment of human and material assistance as well as his role in coordinating the workforce during the crisis.

After the conclusion of the presentations, our host for the day opened up the floor for debate. Among the many questions and issues to emerge, the main ones which stood out were the poor insurance coverage for serious contamination cases (such as that of the sinking of the Prestige), the role of risk assessment companies for ships and the slow pace of the justice system in reaching a conclusion on this particular disaster.

Lourdes concluded the debate by questioning all of the presenters about the lessons learned from the Prestige case, not only from the perspective of compensation for the repair of the damage caused, but also from the angle of preventative and corrective measures to avert such problems in the future. She then ended her summing up by highlighting “the collective response from the Spanish public on the Prestige crisis, demonstrated by the work of all those who helped reduce the severe consequences of the contamination”

The event was closed by the AGERS President, Juan Carlos López Porcel, who gave his appreciation to the participants for the way in which they had tackled this difficult and controversial subject. He underlined that the meeting, promoted by AGERS, had been “a good reason to unite risk management specialists”. He also announced the association’s intention to hold more working breakfasts to discuss current topics of interest using the same format, believing that bringing in subject matter experts allows for the drawing of practical conclusions for risk managers to consider. “Workshops like this – he declared – may be the perfect meeting point for all those who wish to share their knowledge, best practice and experience on the complex area of risk management”.