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Let's Talk: Keeping industries moving with inland marine insurance

Ken Mueller_Inland Marine_AXA XL

By Ken Mueller, Regional Vice President Marine

If property assets can move, structures can be built, or unique valuation needs exist, it’s likely that someone is relying on inland marine insurance for protection. And no one knows inland marine insurance better than Ken Mueller, AXA XL’s Southeast Regional Director of Marine. Ken has helped build AXA XL’s inland marine business from the ground up. And his region -- the Southeastern part of the US – continues to be a hot bed of trade, construction and transportation activity. And he’s eying even more growth. See why.

What’s happening in your region? Where are you seeing the growth opportunities?
The Southeast Region an economic powerhouse, fueled by imports and exports, as well as construction activity. The region benefits from international US port markets such as Savannah, Miami and Charleston, as well the widening of the Panama Canal. Thanks to recent infrastructure and dredging projects, more ports in the region can handle increased cargo volume.

For instance, the South Carolina Port Authority opened Inland Port Dillon last year to take containers from the Port of Charleston to inland distribution centers via. rail service, enabling The Port of Charleston to have one of its best years ever. The Army Corp of Engineers is about half-way through dredging the Port of Savannah, which is the second busiest port in the nation for exports. The first half of the project deepened the outer harbor to 49 feet at low tide and 56 feet at high tide. The inner harbor channel will be expanded from its current low-tide depth of 42 feet to 47 feet or 54 feet at high tide. In 2018, record container volumes were recorded in 2018, so the region is already seeing these expansion projects start to pay off.

Ports are not the only infrastructure undergoing expansion. Georgia is currently investing about $1 billion per year in transportation projects to widen interstates, add truck-only lanes and improve trucking routes between ports and interstates. 

Given all this activity, the need for inland marine insurance to address builder’s risk, warehousing, transportation, and logistics exposures is growing rapidly.

Where are you seeing the most opportunity for the inland marine insurance market? How is your team prepared to address it?
Because of the booming economy, construction business is increasing about 20% per year organically. Contractors need to make sure their insurance programs properly protect their property assets (including contractors’ equipment) and construction projects. In Savannah, for example, electrical contractors have doubled in size – and the insurance premiums have followed suit.

With our inland marine team’s well-rounded offerings for property, equipment and builders risks, teamed with our North America Construction team, which offers large engineered builders’ risk, GL and Subcontractor Default products for the largest contractors in the US, AXA XL is well equipped to address the insurance needs of the construction industry.

To help contractors manage risk, we continue to develop comprehensive, market-leading insurance products, such as AXA XL’s most recent contractor’s equipment policy.

What other industries are you focusing on?
Motor truck cargo is big business, but we are extremely selective about what we underwrite. South Florida is a hot spot for cargo theft. Florida is second, behind California, for the most cargo thefts in the country. Our Motor Truck Cargo Coverage Solutions product protects truckers’ legal liability for damage to the property of others in their care custody and control for the purpose of transportation. Our policy also includes 22 other coverages that protect these businesses from contract penalty, expediting expenses, property that supports your business and more.

Logistics is another piece of the Inland Marine puzzle. Before the Port of Savannah expansion, warehouses were sparse. Today, warehouses are springing up all over the place. These businesses need insurance that address all the unique exposures of logistics operations, including transportation, consolidation, processing and storage.

What have all these opportunities meant for AXA XL’s inland marine business? For your team?
In 2011, AXA XL assembled a seasoned team of inland marine underwriters and I was happy to be part of that organization. It was an opportunity to build an operation from scratch. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it has been a very rewarding experience - building a team and book of business that is profitable. Now we have 14 Inland Marine professionals throughout the country. I’m extremely proud of our accomplishments. And we’ve only just begun.

With the Southeast Region growing at a record pace, Ken Mueller and his Inland Marine underwriting team, are in expansion mode – and plan to remain in that mode for the near future. To discuss AXA XL’s Inland Marine capabilities in the Southeast, Ken can be reached in our Atlanta office at 1-770-677-4254.

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AXA XL is the P&C and specialty risk division of AXA.