Always aiming higher – Sustainable casualty handling in Skuld

ESG in practice

Published: 29 June 2023

Nina Hanevold-Sandvik, VP, Casualty and Major Claims (C&MC), Skuld, has her sights set on a journey of continual improvement. For her, her C&MC colleagues, and indeed the rest of Skuld, it's crucial to the evolution of the industry that ESG becomes increasingly central within the context of casualty handling – protecting the ocean, assets and all the people connected to them. Minimum standards are never enough, she says, "when there's an opportunity to do more".

"It was already ratified as far as we were concerned." A smiling Nina Hanevold-Sandvik, one of three dedicated experts on Skuld's C&MC team, is making a good-natured point about the breaking news that the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (Hong Kong Convention) has finally, after 14 years of negotiations, been ratified.

Even before Bangladesh and the Liberian Registry agreed to the convention, bringing it into force from June 2025, it was apparently applicable for Skuld, as she explains:

"Just because a convention isn't in force doesn't mean it shouldn't be adhered to. We view the Hong Kong Convention as the absolute minimum standard for the sustainable recycling of wrecks and always strive to follow that, the Basel Convention and, of course, the EU ship and waste recycling regulations where relevant. We feel we have a responsibility, to our members as well as to society, to always ensure the proper, safe and environmentally sound handling of wrecks and waste."

"At the end of the day there's a Skuld standard," she adds with another smile, "and we always adhere to that."

Leading the way

Nina's cheery manner belies her (very) serious commitment to the subject matter in hand.

A qualified lawyer with 12 years of experience in maritime and insurance law from private practice, and a further two years at Skuld, she is leveraging her considerable expertise to help push ESG further up the industry agenda – assisting Skuld's members, but also impacting upon the wider industry.

Her latest project has been the drafting of Skuld's first 'Sustainable Casualty Handling Guidance Note', creating a concrete framework to ensure a standardised, high-quality approach to sustainability within a casualty handling context.

The note will be finalised this summer, and its implementation will be supported by integration into Skuld's existing computer-based 'casualty scenario team training'.

Simplifying complexity

"I honestly don't know if anyone else within the marine insurance business has this kind of formalised guidance," she states, "but what I can say is that we see this as an important step forward. It helps clarify how we tackle fundamentally important sustainability issues, including the fair treatment of seafarers, pollution, wreck removal and waste disposal, and governance. That helps each business unit's casualty coordinator to approach these often huge, complex cases with the clarity and focus required to not only get the job done, but to do so with ESG considerations front-of-mind."

"That's very important to us, but also to our forward-thinking members who have sustainability – and the reporting frameworks to document this – integrated into their businesses. As such, we can help them achieve goals and adhere to standards, even in the most trying of situations."

On hand to help

And the situations, as everyone in the industry will be aware of, can be very trying indeed. Nina and the team are always on hand to help, with a central location in Oslo, a world map covering one wall to pinpoint any assured's casualty location, and an advanced video conferencing system to coordinate and support international responses.

First steps include ensuring the safety of crews, in strict accordance with the IMO Guidelines on Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the Event of a Maritime Accident (and including personal injuries and repatriation where necessary), and environmental response. Here Skuld's long-standing approach of working in partnership with members, suppliers, authorities and other key stakeholders pays dividends, with a holistic approach to, as Nina stresses, "cover absolutely all the bases."

Challenge and opportunity

"All incidents demand a multi-faceted response," she explains. "We handle all pollution and risk of pollution based on professional industry advice, hand-in-hand with expert organisations such as ITOPF, while working together with contractors and service providers to understand, and minimise, any potential negative impacts of both the pollution and the pollution response."

"Each incident is both a unique situation and an opportunity to learn, share knowledge and improve industry responses. There is never, ever complacency here."

As already mentioned, all wrecks, as well as wreckage, debris and hydrocarbons are removed in line with stringent industry standards.

However, Skuld is also looking to go one step further, with a move to include 'Sustainability Reporting Clauses' in new wreck removal contracts.

"This is another way of ensuring the very highest standards," Nina adds. "We are now developing a standard reporting format which will guide our contractors in reporting on factors such as the emissions contractors have produced during the response, where and how the ship has been recycled, the methods of dealing with any waste, labour and human rights issues and so on. It's transparent, accountable, measurable and, we believe, the way ahead as we all push for a more sustainable, responsible shipping industry."

Enabling change

Concluding on that note, Nina says while appreciation of ESG considerations are "certainly growing" within the casualty, salvage and wreck removal niche, there's still work to be done.

And Skuld, she hopes, can help exert positive influence here:

"I think there remains an element of confusion as to what ESG really entails. Some operators, we find, view it as something akin to CSR – where you enhance your sustainability by making contributions to, for example, a good cause. While that is a helpful contribution, it goes so much deeper than that."

"CSR is largely 'external' in focus while ESG is 'internal'. It requires a larger transition, whereby a company integrates ESG into their culture and approach to doing business. We believe that by consistently showing our suppliers how important it is to us (and our members), and then by asking them questions, and making certain demands, we can help take them on an ESG journey of their own – improving their own standards and impacting positively on the wider industry."

She ends, with a final smile, noting: "At Skuld we want to help enable continual improvement for everyone, not just ourselves."

"We can always do better. We can always aim higher. That will help us all reach our goals, with ESG and beyond."