The Future of the International Group Agreement and International Pooling Agreement of the International Group of P&I Clubs

A Contribution to the Debate on the Agreements of the International Group of P&I Clubs Currently Under EU Investigation

Bachelor Thesis, 2011

85 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of content


List of abbreviations

List of tables

List of figures

List of appendices

1 Introduction
1.1 Background of the topic
1.1.1 Marine insurance sectors
1.1.2 Marine insurance market Global marine insurance market Protection & Indemnity insurance market
1.2 Statement of the problem
1.3 Objective of the thesis
1.4 Structure of the thesis

2 Theoretical fundamentals
2.1 Introduction to the International Group of P&I Clubs
2.1.1 The unique mutual insurance system of marine Protection & Indemnity clubs
2.1.2 Historical development of the Protection & Indemnity insurance
2.2 Background on the International Group of P&I Clubs
2.2.1 Organisation and structure
2.2.2 Functions and objectives The International Group Pooling Agreement The International Group Agreement

3 Discussion of controversy
3.1 The strengths of the International Group of P&I Clubs' agreements
3.2 The weaknesses of the International Group of P&I Clubs' agreements
3.3 Conclusion of discussion of controversy

4 Future scenario
4.1 The most probable outcome of the EU competition authority investigation
4.2 Abstract on aviation and nuclear insurance markets

5 Conclusion and forecast




I hereby declare that I wrote this thesis independently and on my own. I clearly marked any language or ideas borrowed from other sources as not my own and documented their sources.

Kiel, 2 December 2011

Ulrike Niemann

List of abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

List of tables

Table 1: International Group of P&I Clubs, market analysis of member clubs 2010

List of figures

Figure 1: International Group of P&I Clubs, reinsurance model 2011 (Owned entries)

Figure 2: Model of market situation of IG quotation procedure on renewal

List of appendices

Appendix I: Answers from an IG P&I Club on a self-developed questionnaire

Appendix II: Email correspondence with EU Commission

1 Introduction

The following striking news was announced on 26 August 2010 in Brussels on the billboard of the involved parties:

“Antitrust: Commission opens formal probe into marine insurance agreements” (Commission 2010a, IP/10/1079: 1-2).

From that day on publication no. IP/10/1072 became a well-known EU paper among marine insurance market participants. It has influenced its daily operation, although this is not necessarily obvious, since it is still considered a rather sensitive topic and is thus hidden from any further publicity.[1] After having announced this, the European Commission has made good on its word and started an investigation process of which the following extract lays the foundation:

The thirteen largest clubs of non-governmental mutual marine insurance societies, the Protection & Indemnity clubs (P&I clubs), are members of the International Group of P&I clubs. Currently they insure third-party liabilities to more than 90% of the world sea-going tonnage, around 95% of the ocean-going tankers and about 60% in terms of the amount of world-wide trading vessels. These clubs are covered by an agreement of mutuality, the International Group Agreement (IGA). They are bound by its particular guidelines on claims-sharing and joint reinsurance with the intention of preventing other member clubs from undercutting each other’s price rates in case of a ship owner switching from its insuring club (holding club) to another club (new club) within the Group membership. The EU commission claims some of the regulations of the International Group of P&I Clubs are questionable in terms of the competition among the member P&I clubs as well as the entry barriers for non-member clubs to the relevant markets.[2]

1.1 Background of the topic

1.1.1 Marine insurance sectors

As one of the first established fields of insurance, marine insurance associations can be traced back to the time of the Ancient Greeks and Romans when merchant shipping was confronted by a variety of severe risks caused, for instance, by navigational discrepancies or constructional defects.[3] However, decisive developments have taken place during the past 150 years and this system has generated a very specialized scope of knowledge, established an autonomous market infrastructure of experts, and has accumulated a tremendous volume of capital. Due to its variable development, the competitive business of marine insurance is quite specific to the maritime market participants and requirements.

Marine insurance, as it is known today, can be differentiated into certain forms of insurance. The four major sections are by definition:

Hull & Machinery (H&M): insurance of the vessel itself, fundamentally covering costs of losses and damages to the ship and its equipment

Protection & Indemnity (P&I): third-party liabilities of ship owners are covered such as cargo, crew, and contractual claims

Marine cargo insurance: concerns the assurance of freight, warehousing, and logistical operations

Particular marine liabilities: common covers, which in particular do not belong to the above mentioned, for example war risk insurance and loss of hire insurance.[4],[5]

Marine insurance covers are continuously adjusted and customized. Due to its great dependence on changing global circumstances and unforeseen events, this sector needs to stay innovative and adaptable, such as in case of piracy attacks in international waters, and even with regards to nuclear radiation exposure to vessel, crew, and cargo.

1.1.2 Marine insurance market

The marine insurance market has become a dynamic field of activity, which is however hardly known to consumers, who, however, can be sure that the majority of goods in their proximity have, to some extent, been conveyed by a ship during their lifetime. Since insurance contracts easily comprise one of the largest factors of operating expenses, with an average of 14% on a ship owner’s balance sheet, the absolute figure and its market share is surely considerable.[6] Global marine insurance market

The past years of marine insurance have been similar in terms of events and their impacts. A vast number of vessels of all kinds were taken out of service due to the deteriorating world economy, thus causing instability and challenges in 2008. Insurance premium rates were adjusted depending on whether a vessel was laid up in “cold” (engine aggregates turned off) or “warm” (stand-by) condition in order to minimize costs.[7] Due to the strong hurricane seasons, the commercial marine insurance market struggled with further losses which generated higher policy rates.[8] Insurers argued that the low level of ship activity could be equated with a low level of claims costs. However, the situation could have been aggravated if crew members were required to maintain the ship’s condition more thoroughly, thus allowing the discovery of otherwise undetected damage. Either way, the maritime industry’s objectives were, again, maintaining its financial situation and the enforcement of higher premiums.[9],[10],[11] The preternatural catastrophic events of Deep Water Horizon and its severe aftermath, as well as Chilean tremors, ruined previous forecasts around the globe for 2010. In addition, continuing volatility in financial markets allowed little flexibility, resulting in one of the costliest insurance years even though increasing volumes of international trade brought most of the shipping industry back into employment. In the beginning of 2011, Japan (earthquake and tsunami), New Zealand (earthquake), and Australia (flooding) were struck by some of the worst natural disasters. These events called once more for the help of the insurance sector to assist the society in order to get back on its feet. Low investment returns, stagnant economic growth and sincere concerns about the solvency of some, not only marine, insurers, are on daily underwriters’ schedules. Yet towards the end of 2011, there is some strong belief of market compensation trough government bonds and conservative investment approaches.[12] Protection & Indemnity insurance market

Like other forms of marine insurance, Protection & Indemnity was, and still is, highly affected by shifting market behaviours. It is in need to response to insurant’s requests which usually emerge out of occurrences of all kind. Besides this, the P&I market situation underlies certain characteristics which generally cannot be compared to other competition systems and shall be briefly explained as follows:

Protection & Indemnity in marine business, the protection against liability to other (third) parties, is offered by two categories of insurers – the mutual P&I clubs and classic commercial underwriters. The thirteen largest P&I clubs are a consolidated group of individual non-governmental marine insurance underwriters forming the so called International Group of P&I Clubs (IG P&I or The Group) based on a signed agreement of mutuality, the International Group Agreement (IGA).[13] Through the establishment of the International Group of P&I Clubs a voluntary association was formed in order to protect the common interests of its maritime members: the claims-sharing and the reinsurance programme. However, the classic commercial marine underwriters or even other P&I insurers which are non-members to the IG P&I have found themselves further remaining in the competitive market environment.[14]

Presently, the IG P&I member clubs ensure a significant share of the world’s P&I market and are about to continue their pooling business successfully if no further serious external influences occur. Beginning after the individual club retention which ends at USD 8 million, the pooling system was burdened by fourteen pool claims in the policy year of 2010 which amounted to less than USD 200 million. Here to be named are the MV “Bunga Kelana 3”, which experienced a severe oil spill after a collision with another carrier near Singapore, and the MV “Oriental Hope”, which had to be depreciated as a total loss after striking a reef off South Korea in heavy weather. The major expenditures of that year holds the collision of the MV “MSC Chitra”, a container vessel, with the bulk carrier MV “Khalijia 3”, which went into the reinsurance programme, starting for claims as of USD 50 million. Compared to the peak year in 2006 with forty large claims in the reinsurance system, improvement is clearly visible.[15],[16] Reducing claim incidents is a continuous objective of the P&I clubs.

1.2 Statement of the problem

By executing the existing International Group Agreement, the International Group of P&I Clubs got in conflict with Article 85 (1) of the European Commission (EC) Treaty for the first time in 1975. In consequence of various modifications, the IG P&I was granted a ten year exemption regulation from Article 85 (1) with effect from 20 February 1985. This was followed by a second exemption from 1999 until 2009 which, however, needed several precedent years of negotiations and discussion between the participating parties.[17]

Due to the fact that the second individual exemption expired, the European Commission has had the intention of examining, analysing and reviewing certain aspects of the claims-sharing agreement and pooling system of the IG P&I before taking further actions. Additionally, the coexistence of two different types of marine P&I insurers raise questions on the impact on competition by one of them, the IG P&I, and the possibility of violating antitrust laws. Do these internal restrictions hinder competition between member clubs of the IG P&I? Does this unique cartel limit or even fend the access of other commercial P&I insurers to the required markets? Taking the perspective of a consumer: do the benefits weigh out the disadvantages?

Whatever the final resolution by the European Commission shall declare, this formal investigation into the marine P&I insurance market already provokes disagreements varying between confidence of victory and desperate concerns – naturally subject to the chosen perspective.

1.3 Objective of the thesis

This thesis wishes to contribute to the current international debate around the stated issues in relation to the International Group of P&I Clubs and its obliged framework, the International Group Agreement and International Pooling Agreement, which at present undergo the thorough examination by the European Commission. The critical review shall ensure a solid base for evaluating the agreements, leading to an assumption of the most possible outcome scenario of the EU decision and, ultimately, aims to conclude these foregoing rudiments in a future market prognosis.

1.4 Structure of the thesis

In accordance with the outline, the thesis begins with introducing the topic, presenting maritime insurance market information and stating the problem in Chapter 1. In Chapter 2, essential theoretical data on the uniqueness of the mutual insurance system is provided including its establishment and mode of operation then and now. The organizational structure and role of the International Group and its members in today’s P&I market is described including the International Group Pooling Agreement and International Group Agreement, which lay the fundament of the Group’s business. Further, Chapter 3 reveals the current EU antitrust analysis on the Group’s ruling factors, and then represents possible advantages and disadvantages of the two systems. Followed by an assumption of a potential outcome of the investigation in Chapter 4, its ramifications adding views on insurance market systems of equal financial capability are outlined. The final Chapter 5 puts forward the conclusion of main findings including future directions.

2 Theoretical fundamentals

2.1 Introduction to the International Group of P&I Clubs

2.1.1 The unique mutual insurance system of marine Protection & Indemnity clubs

The protection and indemnity insurance, which is generally known as P&I, is a special type of marine insurance provided to ship owners, managers or charterers. P&I cover implies the protection against liability to third parties, which may raise contractual or legal claims against the vessel, respectively its ship owners[18]. The indemnity constitutes the financial compensation to member parties after their demonstration of a particular loss. By signing a P&I contract with a P&I club or a similar provider, members benefit from claim investigation, legal advice in negotiations over the claim, and the allocation of reserved funds in order to handle and settle the claim on their behalf.

“P&I insurance is usually arranged by entering the ship in a mutual insurance association, usually referred to as a ‘club’,” (Hill et al. 1996: 6). P&I clubs are mutual (i.e. cooperative) insurance societies to which each member individually tributes, and which absorbs the costs of one of a single member’s liability in the event of mishaps.[19] Grouping together and sharing the risk and liabilities with each other is one of the main principles of the ship owner members of the P&I clubs. This system is not a traditional insurance and is unlike to common marine insurance companies, which are answerable to its shareholders, whereas P&I clubs are servants only of its members.[20],[21] The members themselves (ship owners) take control over the club through a board of directors which is elected by the membership on a periodic basis. The board of directors makes decisions with regard to claims, finances, and policy rules throughout the year.[22] Thereby, a clear structure of the agency relationship is visible whereas a principle (ship owner) hires an agent, here the P&I club and its managers, for carrying out required interests on owners’ behalf.[23]

Since P&I underwriting is a comprehensive type of insurance cover, premiums account for a considerable amount of operating costs for ship owners, yet this is a cost item which is likely to differ from ship to ship. On a yearly basis, each 20 February at noon GMT or on initial entry, P&I insurance and its framework, the time policy, has to be debated. Tonnage and age, cargo to be carried, the intended trading areas, vessel’s condition, management expertise, the nationality of the crew, previous P&I claim records, economic developments such as inflation, recessions or currency fluctuations – all of the above are potential driving factors of the premium. These aspects have to be taken into account by club underwriters for evaluating a vessel’s risk profile on which the level of the future premium shall be calculated on.[24],[25] Frequently, the club carries out audits either ashore or afloat, to ensure quality and technical standards and to facilitate future services. Agreeing on the final standard terms of a third-party liability, the following main risks are normally assured by a P&I club:[26]

- Cargo (liability for cargo loss, shortage, damage or delay)
- Crew, passengers, and other persons (loss of life, personal injury and life salvage, repatriation expenses, unemployment indemnities, sick wages)
- Pollution (oil or other polluting substances resulting in pollution of sea, land, or air)
- Collision and contact liability (collision with other ships, fixed or floating objects)
- Wreck removal and obstruction (arising expenses of compulsorily removing, destroying or marking a wreck; liability in case a vessel may cause an obstruction)
- General average contribution (covering a cargo’s proportion of general average under specific circumstances)
- Fines (fines and charges enjoined by authorities)
- Nuclear risks

By the time the vessel is accepted for an entry into a P&I club, the Certificate of Entry will be issued. This document has to be carried on board each member’s vessel and will be the evidence of being in possession of P&I protection.

A P&I club, like any other enterprise, is in need of sufficient funds in each year of the running policy, in order to meet its outgoings, such as costs of liabilities, the expenses of reinsurance contracts as well as the running disbursements of the club. The P&I association’s income is acquired “from several main sources, including premium income from members, monies recovered from claims handled by the club, monies recovered from reinsurance contracts and interest from investments made on members’ behalf” (North of England P&I Association Limited 2008: 22). The members are required to pay premiums in advance to the upcoming policy year as per club rules before obtaining indemnity from the club.

Despite the fact that a vessel is evaluated for a 12 month policy period in advance, the actual premium itself can be divided into different components of payment in order to assist members in being flexible with their cash flows. The so called mutual premium, the expected annual premium call, can be submitted in agreed instalments, usually on a quarterly basis. By the time funds need to be supplemented by additional monies due to the fact that the calculated mutual premium amount was insufficient, additional calls can be undertaken. In addition to that, overspill calls can occur in case of an extra unforeseen requirement, particularly an overspill claim. Bearing additional and overspill calls in mind, in normal practice a member account is closed two years after the actual end of an underwriting period. However, quite seldom a policy can be continued to be kept open if claims are still in process of developing, either increasing or decreasing in volume, than primarily anticipated.[27] In the naturally occurring case of changing ownership from one IG P&I member club to another, the currently insuring P&I club (holding club) will require a release call or release premium from the respective member vessel(s) before leaving to the new insurer (new club). This sort of payment shall relieve the ship owner of any further financial liability with the previous club.[28],[29]

Since a P&I Club is considered to be a non-profit making association, an overall financial strategy lays a fundamental base which, chiefly, has the purpose of maintaining a strict solvency margin. This regulatory legislation is met by a club’s investment programme whose financial gains enlarge its reserves, hence its contingency fund that in turn preserves members from extra calls and to level off fluctuating claims. Reserves, which will also be entrusted to the mutual P&I club and not re-distributed to ship owners, are bound to meet the member’s liabilities for current and future claims ahead.[30] During the policy renewal season in February 2010, the thirteen largest P&I clubs had been able to re-establish the pre-crisis levels of free reserves totalling USD 3,018,979,010.[31]

2.1.2 Historical development of the Protection & Indemnity insurance

The history of P&I insurance came into existence during the Middle Ages in the Mediterranean and Adriatic regions where brotherhoods and partnerships of risks were established.[32] Especially German and Danish ship owners can be seen as forerunners of marine insurance based on mutuality. At this point of time they encountered many perils such as fire on land, theft of cargo as well as the sickness and death of crew members. The spirit of mutual help was continued to be found in guilds which later transformed into ‘friendly societies’ in the 17th century.

“The name often associated with the origins of marine insurance is that of Lloyds.” (North of England P&I Association Limited 2008: 6) The beginning of maritime underwriting can be traced back to the foundation of a coffee house by Edward Lloyd in the City of London in the 1680s. He provided a meeting place for associated member parties, so they could negotiate a suitable insurance policy for a vessel and its cargo. Continuous recognition and positive reputation enhanced underwriting demand as well as the coffee house business, and led towards the formation of Lloyd’s Underwriting, one of the first so called marine hull insurance organisations.[33]

The next century brought forth major developments and the expansion of international trade into new territories which resulted in further demand for more comprehensive and suitable insurance facilities, especially with regard to third-party liabilities. The subsequent clash of interests was provoked by the growing awareness of ship owners of the impact of this period of economic, social and technological change and, subsequently, its effects on value of the vessels and the cargo carried by them.[34] At this point of time, underwriters were of the opinion that if ship owners were required to undertake a significant part of the risk themselves, they would navigate and sail with greater care. The ‘three-fourth-running down clause’ came into practice whereas the hull underwriters insured three-fourths of the liability of the insured ship in respect of loss or damage to another ship or her cargo as a result of collision, leaving the uninsured residual to be covered from the ship owner’s own pocket. Increasing liability exposures which their traditional hull underwriters were incapable of covering and indemnifying, and which went hand in hand with higher premiums, encouraged new principles induced by ship owners. As they became aware of these unacceptable positions, the ship owners took new innovative steps: grouping and forming themselves into mutual associations and agreeing to share each other’s claims. Thus, the system of P&I clubs was born and the first protecting club, the Shipowner’s Mutual Protection Society, was formed in 1855.[35],[36]

Overseas trade growth and UK Acts of Parliament generated a greater need for development of P&I insurance clubs’ business expansion and liability adjustments. Expanded trading areas and increasing traffic at sea caused an escalation of ship accidents as well, bringing P&I associations to the verge of despair with regard to third-party liability, especially when it came to finding a balance between burdening members with supplementary calls and walking at the edge of bankruptcy by guaranteeing wide cover for competitive low premiums. The necessity of additional security, again, forced them to break new ground: “The clubs themselves associate together in order to reinsure each other on a mutual basis...” (Hill et al. 1996: 129). This answers the question as to how a system of reinsurance can be accomplished and simultaneously keep cost coverage at a competitive level. These voluntary steps towards claims-sharing outline the historical structure of what was later called the ‘Pooling Agreement’. In 1899, six P&I clubs entered into the first mutual reinsurance commitment, the so-called London Group of P&I Clubs and were renamed years later into ‘The International Group of P&I Clubs’. Situations when a holding club’s ability to protect a case far in excess of the deductible will inevitably arise, and the benefit of cooperation in order to ensure that excess balance will be borne, still sets today’s principal purpose of the Pooling Agreement. This system was and still is based on a high level of trust and confidence. Nevertheless, in order to operate and to “... ensure a minimum of discipline among the parties ...” ([37] a verbal agreement was formed underlining that no club shall consider price cuts or other financial enticement for the purpose of acquiring new member vessels. Until 1951 reinsurance was collectively purchased by a reinsurance contract instead of individually sought on open reinsurance market.[38] Until then financial guarantees were only provided between group members clubs.[39],[40]

Now, looking back to the International Group of P&I Clubs’ origin more than 100 years later, it can be seen that much of its development has taken place over the past three decades.[41]

2.2 Background on the International Group of P&I Clubs

2.2.1 Organisation and structure

The International Group of P&I Clubs represents a unique system of mutual insurance in shipping economy. Its consolidation incorporates the thirteen largest non-profit-making mutual insurance organisations, the Group member P&I clubs. Covering third-party liabilities with regard to the utilization and operation of vessels, its collective insurance and reinsurance as well as coordination of the two Group agreements are the main principles of the International Group of P&I Clubs, which assures over 90% of the current sea-going tonnage and 95% of the sea-going tankers as of today.[42],[43],[44] The remaining minority of marine third-party liabilities is left to other insurers occupying about 10% market share of sea-going tonnage. They amount to twenty-five associations in total, either clubs with no IG membership like China P&I, Islamic P&I or South of England Club, or commercial P&I insurance associations such as Swiss Re, Allianz, RaetsMarine or Hanseatic P&I.[45]

The Group member clubs[46] can be divided by their different countries of origin, whereas two of them are from Norway, one is Swedish, the majority of eight derives from the United Kingdom, and one each is situated in Japan and the United States. Based on Table 1 “International Group of P&I Clubs, market analysis of member clubs 2010” illustrating the full style member names and outlining the current market situation of the Group clubs, these organisations supervise in terms of mutual insurance coverage a total volume of 888,527,072 GT (measured in gross tonnage (GT) which defines the ship’s overall internal volume). Depending on the amount of GT insured and call income received during the last policy period 2010, the dominating positions within the Group are taken by Gard with 15% and UK Club with 12% market share regarding the overall GT covered. Generally speaking, the more vessels that are insured the more claims and calls will arise, which puts the big two also in the lead in terms of annual call income. The strong midfield is represented by several underwriters such as Britannia Club, North of England Club, Japan Club and Steamship Mutual varying between 5 and 11% of market share either way. The Swedish Club, 2% in GT, and American Club, 2% in call income, possess the smallest market quantities among the Group members.

All of the named International Group clubs are conglomerated by the International Group secretariat based in London. Additionally forming the organisation, the International Group executive officer(s) and the International Group secretary are appointed to their positions, whereas the International Group chairman is elected for a three year term to its commission. They are to ensure communication and administer the Group clubs. As an endorsement to annual meetings, the members of the International Group of P&I Clubs are to give their vote for the International Group panel consisting of five representatives whose duty implies monitoring the work of the secretariat and maintaining the financial treasury operation in favour of the International Group. Having its finger on the pulse of time, Group sub-committees and working groups provide background information on a variety of current and relevant maritime concerns and Group issues via reports to the International Group of P&I Clubs of which there are currently 45 to 55 involved in different topics. Special representatives of each club assume responsibility and undertake supportive actions in their fields of knowledge. For these reasons, group meetings, either in small and frequent manner such as in panel or large proportion like the Annual General Meeting of the International Group of P&I Clubs, illustrate an important point of exchange and discussion for

Table 1: International Group of P&I Clubs, market analysis of member clubs 2010

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Cooper Gay (2009: 5) and own calculation

the future development of the International Group of P&I Clubs and its functions.[47]


[1] International Chamber of Shipping (2010). MLC(10)37 and IC(10)18.


[3] Enge (1996:19-21).

[4] Enge (1996:291-294).

[5] David et al. (2008: 228).

[6] Stopford (2009: 33, 230-231).

[7] Hollmann (2007: 30).

[8] Hollmann (2009a: 31).

[9] Hollmann (2009b: 36).

[10] Hollmann (2009c: 36).

[11] AON Limited (2009: 10-11).

[12] Lloyd’s (2011: 2-5).



[15] TradeWinds (2011: 26).

[16] Mulrenan (2011a: 5).


[18] Please include manager and charterer to the general member term „ship owner“ while reading.

[19] David et al. (2008: 228).


[21] North of England P&I Association Limited (2008: 5-31).


[23] Wöhe et al. (2000: 97).

[24] Stopford (2009: 230-231).

[25] North of England P&I Association Limited (2008: 5-31).

[26] Assuranceforeningen Skuld (2009: 2-45).

[27] Gold (2006: 599-605).

[28] North of England P&I Association (2008: 5-31).

[29] Stopford (2009: 230-231).

[30] .

[31] Cooper Gay (2009: 3).

[32] Hill et al. (1996: 1-59).

[33] Enge (1996: 19-21, 291-294).

[34] Hill et al. (1996: 1-59).


[36] North of England P&I Association Limited (2008: 5-31).


[38] Hill et al. (1996: 129-135).

[39] Cf. 37.

[40] Standard London (2010: 1-2).



[43] North of England P&I Association Limited (2008: 5-31).


[45] TradeWinds (2011: 30).



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The Future of the International Group Agreement and International Pooling Agreement of the International Group of P&I Clubs
A Contribution to the Debate on the Agreements of the International Group of P&I Clubs Currently Under EU Investigation
Kiel University of Applied Sciences
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Ulrike Niemann (Author), 2011, The Future of the International Group Agreement and International Pooling Agreement of the International Group of P&I Clubs, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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