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Local correspondents

What is a correspondent?

The Field Summer 2017

The genesis of correspondents

The global nature of both the shipping and offshore industries means that a club's assureds can find themselves in difficulty off almost any coastline. While clubs all now have a number of branch offices, which was not always the case, it is impossible to have an office in every port around the world. How, then, do we provide support and assistance to owners who find themselves in difficulty at a port where we do not have a base?

The solution of using correspondents was arrived at relatively early in the history of P&I insurance, with records suggesting the first one was appointed by a club around 1875. Nowadays, each club has its own worldwide network of correspondents, each of whom can be contacted by the club and masters of vessels alike to provide local advice and knowledge when ships get into difficulty within their jurisdiction.

What is a correspondent?

Despite sometimes being characterised as "Agents", in strict legal terms the relationship between clubs and their correspondents is far less formal than that. Typically, no continuing contract of any sort, far less one of agency, exists. Correspondents are instructed by the club as and when necessary, and are typically paid in relation to the services provided as any other contractor would be. They are, however, vetted, scrutinised and trusted advisors upon whom clubs and their assureds can count to provide prompt, proper advice on a variety of different matters.

Nowadays, there are a number of firms of professional 'correspondents', who do work for several clubs, or in some cases all the IG clubs and more. However, that is not exclusively the case, with the correspondent role being performed by businesses as diverse as ships' surveyors and lawyers. While some lawyers also act as general correspondents, historically there were also a number of legal correspondents who provided only legal correspondent services. However, with the increase in the number of club branch offices, these have declined.