When a dispute arises there is usually no time for me to go to the incident site because it is crucially important to draw up a scenario of how to handle the case, considering how it will develop, and take action as quickly as possible.
Suspension of ship operations is a major problem for our Member. If it happens, we do our very best to assist the ship resume operations as soon as possible.
We set a time frame for completing the case as soon as a dispute arises. In most cases we must take temporary measures allowing the ship to leave the port quickly, in order to avoid any loss of time for the ship, as this works better for the Member. We then start to negotiate solutions, although in some cases we take more time to be certain of the insurance positions of the Member and other relevant parties.
With the assistance of a world-wide network of correspondents accredited by the Japan P&I Club, we then appoint appropriate experts including lawyers and surveyors, in order to resolve the case as efficiently as possible.
Supporting teams within the Association give me confidence to handle cases efficiently. For example, the London Liaison Office (LLO) assists me in dealing with enquiries where there is a time difference and our Loss Prevention Department helps me by providing advice on technical matters relating to the ship.
A few years ago, a case involving a suspicion of chemical cargo contamination occurred in China just before Chinese New Year. I prioritised resolving the claim before the New Year because otherwise everything would be suspended, including cargo operations, during the New Year. The ship’s crew needed help as the ship, having been held for an unexpectedly long time and suffered a power generator failure, had no heating and not sufficient food on board.
I calculated how much time there was for negotiation and instructed a lawyer to negotiate within the set time frame, while seeking advice from colleagues in the Loss Prevention Department (a former Master Mariner and chief engineer) on the cause of the claim. I then came to the conclusion that there was no cargo contamination, and explained this to the Member. I eventually succeeded in persuading the consignee there was no contamination, and the ship managed to discharge the cargo and leave port before the New Year. This was the first time I had appointed a lawyer for a case and I managed to close the matter with no insurance payment other than the lawyer’s costs.
At the same time as the above case, another claim involving damage to a quay wall arose in Africa. I also appointed a lawyer for this matter and worked on it together with LLO, which had no time difference with the incident site in Africa. I finally succeeded in releasing the ship by providing a letter of guarantee.
I had to handle the two cases in parallel because of the time difference. However, my manager judged that it was high time for me to handle cases on my own, and working as a claim handler in charge was a great experience which gave me confidence and improved my judgement for the claims which followed.
My work also involves sharing with my colleagues and the Members my practical experiences as a claim handler. I have been invited to speak in seminars in Members’ offices. In order to ensure accuracy, I double-check the details of what to explain to others, even if it is what I have known for a long time and it is not very complicated. I also try my best to communicate clearly with our Members and provide them with useful information. There are important things even in unwritten processes.
I myself attend external workshops on legal precedents and internal meetings, to share knowledge of claims handling and to help me keep improving my knowledge and skills.
I had the opportunity to study outside Japan when I was at high school and then as a university student, and my aim then was to find a job where I would be able to use the language skills I gained abroad.
Despite not knowing much about the shipping industry and insurance business then, I have gained new knowledge with the help of the many supervisors and colleagues from whom I can easily seek advice, and I got into the habit of thinking about how my work could benefit our Members. These days I am also asked to train junior members of staff, which gives me good opportunities to realise what I know and I do not know!
While I am usually very busy handling urgent claims, words of appreciation from our Members such as ‘you did a very good job, thank you’ or ‘thank you for your support always’ make me very happy and they are the source of my motivation.