Ship insurers said they are cancelling war risk cover across Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, following an exit from the region by reinsurers in the face of steep losses.
Reinsurers, who insure the insurers, typically renew their 12-month contracts with insurance clients on Janiary 1.
This gives them the first opportunity to scale back exposure since the war in Ukraine started, after being hit this year by losses related to the conflict and from Hurricane Ian in Florida.
P&I (protection and indemnity) clubs American, North, UK and West are no longer able to offer war risk cover for some liabilities in the region from January 1, they said in recent notices on their websites.
The clubs are among the biggest P&I insurers who cover around 90% of the world's ocean-going ships.
UK P&I Club said on December 23 that the issue had arisen because of a lack of availability of reinsurance for reinsurers, also known as retrocession.
"The Club's reinsurers are no longer able to secure reinsurance for war risk exposure to Russian, Ukrainian or Belarus territorial risks," it said.
American P&I said on December 23 that it had received a "notice of cancellation" for the region from its war risk reinsurers and was cancelling its own insurance as a result.
Ships typically have P&I insurance, which covers third-party liability claims including environmental damage and injury. Separate hull and machinery policies cover vessels against physical damage.
The withdrawal of cover for Ukraine and Russia applies to some but not all types of policy offered by the P&I clubs, three P&I insurance sources said.
"This is being driven by reinsurance," said Stephen Rebair, deputy global director, underwriting at North, adding that reinsurers were limiting their exposure to the region and "those exclusions have to be passed down the line".
The exclusions will make it harder for charterers to find insurance, increase prices and may mean some ships sail uninsured, industry sources say.
Providers of reinsurance and retrocession include global players Hannover Re, Munich Re and Swiss Re, as well as syndicates in the Lloyd's of London market. The firms all declined to comment.
Reuters reported earlier this month that a proposed contract clause being circulated by reinsurers excluded war-related claims for both planes and ships in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.
The Japanese government has urged insurers to take on additional risks to continue providing marine war insurance for liquefied natural gas (LNG) shippers in Russian waters, a senior official at the industry ministry said this week.