The Reform of Insurance Contract law: a Sisyphean task?


The Marine Insurance Act is durable and enduring, remarkably so - it has remained

in place, substantially unamended in over 100 years. It is a classic example of

accuracy, brevity, clarity with just 94 sections, each beautifully expressed, and has

provided the framework, the foundation for the success of London’s hugely

successful insurance market over these 100 years, whilst Britain’s role in the

maritime world has otherwise undergone enormous change. English marine

insurance, in tandem with the English legal system which regulates, applies and

enforces it, has survived and prospered whilst much of the edifice on which it was

built has been progressively dismembered: ship building, ownership and

management have declined dramatically; weeds grow in the shipyards on the Tyne

and the Clyde, and Scottish voices have fallen silent in the engine room. There has

been a huge migration of ownership and management of vessels east, although not

necessarily in all classes of tonnage. We are living in a paradigm shift.

... if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then it is plain that immediately on its

emergence, the Marine Insurance Act was much admired, at least among the

Common Law nations although not all of these chose to replicate it. The USA does

not have a Marine Insurance Act (though there were proposals a couple of years ago

for a Marine Insurance Act in Hawaii), but a parallel if not identical set of principles

appear to be applicable in the USA (so far as the writer understands it), albeit with

material differences.

There have of course been calls to amend the Act in the past (see for example the

Law Commission’s Report of 1980, which came to nought). But are we now finally on

the cusp of significant change to the Act, and if so what?

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Rhys Clift, Hill Dickinson LLP | Attorney Advertising

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