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Video Interview: Vince Solarino of the American P&I Club

Watch the interview with Vince Solarino, chief operating officer of Shipowners Claims Bureau Inc, management company of the New York-based American P&I Club.

In this interview Vince Solarino discusses why American P&I Club is more than an insurance provider and how the organisation has diversified their services to support the global maritime industry.

The original interview was first featured in Seatrade Maritime Review – Download your copy now.

Q) How is the American P&I Club more than just an insurance provider?

Typical insurance companies or commercial insurance companies are designed to take a premium and pay a claim – and pay a claim as expeditiously and as cheaply as they can. The American Club, which is one of the 13 International P&I Clubs, is structured as a not-for-profit mutual.

And what does that mean?... It means that we’re catering to the shipowner and we’re providing insurance protection to the shipowner, who in return gives us a premium, and the premium is designed to cover all the claims that we anticipate for the year, as well as the costs of running a P&I club.

It means that we are more a service provider than we are an insurance company, and we provide a service to the shipowner. Shipowners cannot do business without a P&I club, providing protection and indemnification against third-party liability. So it is critical that a shipowner receives all of the attention that they need.

Q) These days, more and more International Group Clubs are diversifying their product lines. How appropriate do you believe this strategy is, and how has the American Club reacted in this respect?

The American Club has become involved in a number of products, the first one being Eagle Ocean Marine which is a fixed premium facility for non-US shipowners. More recently, starting in 2016, we were licenced as a full Hull and Machinery insurance company, called American Hellenic Hull Insurance Company Limited. It was structured, incorporated in Cyprus and is subject to Solvency II standards.

The revenue stream that comes from those other businesses is to the benefit of the mutual – it’s important not to chase away relationships.

Q) How important is it for an International P&I Club to have a strong global team?

You have to – you have to have excellence in each time zone. And that’s what this is about: it’s about service, again, and you can’t service the market unless you’re there.

London was the first location. There’s a heavy brokerage community there, in touch... [with] its finger on the heart and the pulse of the maritime market.

When we expanded, we expanded in Greece. Greece represents about 42% of our shipowning membership. It was critical to have a presence in Greece. The shipowner wants to be able to touch you, feel you. They want to know that you’re in their backyard, so that they can reach out to you. And they do reach out to you – they’ll call you at any time of the night. They like to call – not just an email – they like to get a live voice on the phone. So if you’re not on the landline, they’ll call you on your cellphone. But that’s what we want, that’s what we expect.

So you do need to be in each time zone, each region, where your business is being developed – and it’s about customer maintenance.

Q) In a few words, how would you sum up the ethos of the American P&I Club?

The ethos... it’s the American culture. It’s the way employees think of the Company, how they’d like to be a part of the Company, and how what they do is a reflection on the Company.

But also it’s a reflection on how they’re perceived in the marketplace. I think everyone takes that seriously: I think they’re all thoroughly involved in what we do and how we do it, and they want to be the best at what they do. And I think because of that, we’re the best.

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