8 main Elements of Marine Insurance Contract

The marine insurance has the following essential features which are also called fundamental principles of marine insurance, (1) Features of General Contract, (2) Insurable Interest, (3) Utmost Good Faith, (4) Doctrine of Indemnity, (5) Subrogation, (6) Warranties, (7) Proximate cause, (8) Assignment and nomination of the policy. (9) Return of premium.

1. Features of General Contract :

(a) Proposal :


The broker will prepare a slip upon receipt of instructions to insure from ship owner, merchant or other proposers. Proposal forms, so common in other branches of insurances, are unknown in the marine insurance and only the ‘slip’ so called ‘the original slip’ is used for the proposal.

The original slip is accompanied with other material information which the broker deems necessary for the purpose. The brokers are expert and well versed in marine insurance law and practice.

The various kinds of marine proposals are altogether too diverse, so elaborate rating schedules are not possible and the proposals are considered on individual merits.

(b) Acceptance :


The original slip is presented to the Lloyd’s Underwriters or other insurers or to the Lead of the insures, who initial the slip and the proposal is formally accepted. But the contract cannot be legally enforced until a policy is issued.

The slip is evidence that the underwriter has accepted insurance and that he has agreed subsequently to sign a policy on the terms and conditions indicated on the slip. If the underwriter should refuse to issue or sign a policy, he could not legally be forced to do so.

(c) Consideration:

The premium is determined on assessment of the proposal and is paid at the time of the contract. The premium is called consideration to the contract.


(d) Issue of Policy:

Having effected the insurance, the broker will now send his client a cover note advising the terms and conditions, on which the- insurance has been placed. The broker’s cover note is merely an insurance memorandum and naturally has no value in enforcing the contract with the underwrites.

The policy is prepared, stamped and signed without delay and it will be the legal evidence of the contract. However, after issue of the policy the court has power to order the rectification of the policy to express the intention of the parties to the contract as evidenced by the terms of the slip.

2. Insurable Interest :


Section 7, 8 and 9 to 16 provide for insurable interest. An insured person will have insurable interest in the subject-matter where he stands in any legal or equitable relation to the subject-matter in such a way that he may benefit by the safety or due arrival of insurable property or may be prejudiced by its loss, or by damage thereto or by the detention thereof or may incur liability in respect thereof.

Since marine insurance is frequently affected before the commercial transactions to which they apply are formally completed it is not essential for the assured to have an insurable interest at the time of effecting insurance, though he should have an expectation of acquiring such an interest. If he fails to acquire insurable interest in due course, he does not become entitled to indemnification.

Since the ownership and other interest of the subject matter often change from hands to hands, the requirement of the insurable interest to be present only at the time of loss makes a marine insurance policy freely assignable.

Exceptions :


There are two exceptions of the rule in marine insurance.

1. Lost or Not Lost :

A person can also purchase policy in the subject-matter in which it was known whether the matters were lost not lost. In such cues the assured and the underwriter are ignorant about the safety or otherwise of the goods and complete reliance was placed on the principle of Good Faith.

The policy terminated if anyone of the two parties was aware of the fact of loss. In this case, therefore, the insurable interest may not be present at the time of contract because the subject-matter would have been lost.


2. P.P.I. Policies :

The subject-matter can be insured in the usual manner by P.P.I. (Policy Proof of Interest), /. e., interest proof policies. It means that in the event of claim underwriters may dispense with all proof of insurable interest.

In this case if the underwriter does not pay the claims, it cannot be enforced in any court of law because P.P.I, policies are equally void and unenforceable. But the underwriters are generally adhering on the terms and pay the amount of claim.

The insurable interest in marine insurance can be of the following forms:

I. According to Ownership

The owner has insurable interest up to the full value of the subject-matter. The owners are of different types according to the subject-matter.

(a) In Case of Ships :

The ship-owner or any person who has purchased it on charter-basis can insure the ship up to its full price.

(b) In Case of Cargo:

The cargo-owner can purchase policy up to the full price of the cargo. If he has paid the freight in advance, he can take the policy for the full price of the goods plus amount of freight plus the expense of insurance.

(c) In Case of Freight:

The receiver of the freight can insure up to the amount of freight to be received by him.

II. Insurable Interest in Re-insurance ;

The underwriter under a contract of marine insurance has an insurable interest in his risk, and may re­insure in respect of it.

III. Insurable Interest in other Cases :

In this case all those underwriters are included who have insurable interest in the salary and own liabilities. For example, the master or any member of the crew of a ship has insurable interest in respect of his wages. The lender of money on bottom or respondent a has insurable interest in respect of the loan.

3. Utmost Good Faith :

Section 19, 20, 21 and 22 of the Marine Insurance Act 1963 explained doctrine of utmost good faith. The doctrine of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) applies to commercial contracts, but insurance contracts are based upon the legal principle of uberrimae fides (utmost good faith). If this is not observed by either of the parties, the contract can be avoided by the other party.

The duty of the utmost good faith applies also to the insurer. He may not urge the proposer to affect an insurance which he knows is not legal or has run off safely.

But the duty of disclosure of material facts rests highly on the insured because he is aware of the material common in other branches of insurance are not used in the marine insurance.

Ships and cargoes proposed for insurance may be thousands of miles away, and surveys on underwriters’ behalf are usually impracticable. The assured, therefore, must disclose all the material information which may influence the decision of the contract.

Any non-disclosure of a material fact enables the underwriter to avoid the contract, irrespective of whether the non-disclosure was intentional or inadvertent. The assured is expected to know every circumstance which in the ordinary course of business ought to be known by him. He cannot rely on his own inefficiency or neglect.

The duty of the disclosure of all material facts falls even more heavily on the broker. He must disclose every material fact which the assured ought to disclose and also every material fact which he knows.

The broker is expected to know or inquire from the assured all the material facts. Failure in this respect entitles the underwriter to avoid the policy and if negligence can be held against the broker, he may be liable for damages to his client for breach of contract. The contract shall be an initio if the element of fraud exists.

Exception :

In the following circumstances, the doctrine of good faith may not be adhered to:

(i) Facts of common knowledge.

(ii) Facts which are known should be known to the insurer.

(iii) Facts which are not required by the insurers.

(iv) Facts which the insurer ought reasonably to have in furred from the details given to him.

(v) Facts of public knowledge.

4. Doctrine of Indemnity :

Under Section 3 of the Act at is provided ‘A contact of marine insurance is an agreement whereby the insurer undertakes to indemnify the assured in the manner and the extent agreed upon.

The contract of marine insurance is of indemnity. Under no circumstances an insured is allowed to make a profit out of a claim. In the absence of the principle of indemnity it was possible to make a profit.

The insurer agrees to indemnify the assured only in the manner and only to the extent agreed upon. Marine insurance fails to provide complete indemnity due to large and varied nature of the marine voyage.

The basis of indemnity is always a cash basis as underwriter cannot replace the lost ship and cargoes and the basis of indemnification is the value of the subject-matter.

This value may be either the insured or insurable value. If the value of the subject matter is determined at the time of taking the policy, it is called ‘Insured Value’. When loss arises the indemnity will be measured in the proportion that the assured sum bears to the insured value.

In fixing the insured value, the cost of transportation and anticipated profits are added to original value so that in case of loss the insured can recover not only the cost of goods or properties but a certain percentage of profit also.

The insured value is called agreed value because it has been agreed between the insurer and the insured at the time of contract and is regarded as sacrosanct and binding on both parties to the contract. In marine insurance, it has been customary for the insurer and the assured to agree on the value of the insured subject-matter at the time of proposal.

Having, agreed of the value or basis of valuation, neither party to the contract can raise objection after loss on the ground that the value is too high or too low unless it appears that a fraudulent evaluation has been imposed on either party.

Insured value is not justified in fire insurance due to moral hazard as the property remains within the approach of the assured, while the subject- matter is movable from one place to another in case of marine insurance and the assured value is fully justified there. Moreover, in marine insurance, the assured value removes all complications of valuation at the time of loss.

Technically speaking the doctrine of indemnity applies where the value of subject-matter is determined at the time of loss. In other words, where the market price of the loss is paid, this doctrine has been precisely applied.

Where the value for the goods has not been fixed in the beginning but is left to be determined the time of loss, the measurement is based on the insurable value of the goods. However, in marine insurance insurable value is not common because no profit is allowed in estimating the insurable value.

Again if the insurable value happens to be more than the assured sum, the assured would be proportionately uninsured. On the other hand, if it is lower than the assured sum, the underwriter would be liable for a return of premium of the difference.


There are two exceptions of the doctrine of indemnity in marine insurance.

1. Profits Allowed :

Actually the doctrine says that the market price of the loss should be indemnified and no profit should be permitted, but in marine insurance a certain profit margin is also permitted.

2. Insured Value :

The doctrine of indemnity is based on the insurable value, whereas the marine insurance is mostly based on insured value. The purpose of the valuation is to predetermine the worth of insured.

5. Doctrine of Subrogation :

Section 79 of the Act explains doctrine of subrogation. The aim of doctrine of subrogation is that the insured should not get more than the actual loss or damage.

After payment of the loss, the insurer gets the light to receive compensation or any sum from the third party from whom the assured is legally liable to get the amount of compensation.

The main characteristics of subrogation are as follows:

1. The insurer subrogates all the remedies rights and liabilities of the insured alter payment of the compensation.

2. The insurer has right to pay the amount of loss after reducing the sum received by the insured from the third party. But in marine insurance the right of subrogation arises only after payment has been made, and it is not customary as in fire and accident insurance, to alter this by means of a condition to provide for the exercise of subrogation rights before payment of a claim.

At the same time the right of subrogation must be distinguished from abandonment. If property is abandoned to a marine insurer, he is entitled to whatever remains to the property irrespective of value of subrogation.

3. After indemnification, the insurer gets all the rights of the insured on the third parties, but insurer cannot file suit in his own name. Therefore, the insured must assist the insurer for receiving money from the third party.

If the insured is revoking from filing suit against the third party, the insurer can receive the amount of compensation from the insured. Section 80 of the Act deals with the right of contribution between two or more insurers where there is over insurances by double insurance. It is corollary of principle indemnity

6. Warranties:

A warranty is that by which the assured undertakes that some particular thing shall or shall not be done, or that some conditions shall be fulfilled or whereby he affirms or negatives the existence of a particular state of facts.

Warranties are the statement according to which insured person promises to do or not to do a particular thing or to fulfill or not to fulfill a certain condition. It is not merely a condition but statement of fact.

Warranties are more vigorously insisted upon than the conditions because the contract comes to an end if a warranty is broken whether the warranty was material or not. In case of condition or representation the contract comes to end only when these were material or important. Warranties are of two types:

(1) Express Warranties, and (2) Implied Warranties.

1. Express Warranties:

Express warranties are those warranties which are expressly included or incorporated in the policy by reference.

2. Implied Warranties :

These are not mentioned in the policy at all but are tacitly understood by the parties to the contract and are as fully binding as express warranties.

Warranties can also be classified as (1) Affirmative, and (2) Promissory. Affirmative warranty is the promise which insured gives to exist or not to exist certain facts. Promissory warranty is the promise in which insured promises that he will do or not do a certain thing up to the period of policy. In marine insurance, implied warranties are very important. These are:

1. Seaworthiness of Ship.

2. Legality of venture.

3. Non-deviation.

All these warranties must be literally, complied with as otherwise the underwriter may avoid all liabilities as from the date of the breach.

However, there are two exceptions to this rule when a breach of warranty does not affect the underwriter’s liability: (1) where owing to a change of circumstances the warranty is no longer applicable. (2) Where compliance would be unlawful owing to the enactment of subsequent law.

1. Seaworthiness of ship :

The warranty implies that the ship should be seaworthy at the commencement of the voyage, or if the voyage is carried out in stages at the commencement of each stage. This warranty implies only to voyage policies, though such policies may be of ship, cargo, freight or any other interest. There is no implied warranty of seaworthiness in time policies.

A ship is seaworthy when the ship is suitably constructed, properly equipped, officered and manned, sufficiently fuelled and provisioned, documented and capable of withstanding the ordinary strain and stress of the voyage. The seaworthiness will be clearer from the following points:

1. The standard to judge the seaworthiness is not fixed. It is a relative term and may vary with any particular vessel at different periods of the same voyage. A ship may be perfectly seaworthy for Trans-ocean voyage.

A ship may be suitable for summer but may not be suitable for winter. There may be different standard for different ocean, for different cargo, for different destination and so on.

2. Seaworthiness does not depend merely on the condition of the ship, but it includes the suitability and adequacy of her equipment, adequacy and experience of the officers and crew.

3. At the commencement of journey, the ship must be capable of withstanding the ordinary strain and stress of the sea.

4. Seaworthiness also includes “Cargo-Worthiness”. It means the ship must be reasonably fit and suitable to carry the kind of cargo insured. It should be noted that the warranty of seaworthiness does not apply to cargo. It applies to the vessel only. There is no warranty that the cargo should be seaworthy.

It cannot be expected from the cargo-owner to be well-versed in the matter of shipping and overseas trade. So, it is admitted in seaworthiness clause that the cargo would be seaworthy of the vessel and would not be raised as defense to any claim for loss by insured perils.

It should be noted that the ship should be seaworthy at the port of commencement of voyage or at the different stages if voyage is to be completed in stages.

2. Legality of Venture;

This warranty implies that the adventure insured shall be lawful and that so far as the assured can control the matter it shall be carried out in a lawful manner of the country. Violation of foreign laws does not necessarily involve breach of the warranty. There is no implied warranty as to the nationality of a ship.

The implied warranty of legality applies total policies, voyage or time. Marine policies cannot be applied to protect illegal voyages or adventure. The assured can have no right to claim a loss if the venture was illegal. The example of illegal venture may be trading with an enemy, violating national laws, smuggling, breach of blockade and similar ventures prohibited by law.

Illegality must not be confused with the illegal conduct of the third party e.g., barratry, theft, pirates, rovers. The waiver of this warranty is not permitted as it is against public policy.

3. Other Implied Warranties :

There are other warranties which must be complied in marine insurance.

(a) No Change in Voyage :

When the destination of voyage is changed intentionally after the beginning of the risk, this is called change in voyage.

In absence of any warranty contrary to this one, the insurer quits his responsibility at the time of change in voyage. The time of change of voyage is determined when there is determination or intention to change the voyage.

(b) No Delay in Voyage :

This warranty applies only to voyage policies. There should not be delay in starting of voyage and laziness or delay during the course of journey. This is implied condition that venture must start within the reasonable time.

Moreover, the insured venture must be dispatched within the reasonable time. If this warranty is not complied, the insurer may avoid the contract in absence of any legal reason.

(c) Non deviation:

The liability of the insurer ends in deviation of journey. Deviation means removal from the common route or given path. When the ship deviates from the fixed passage without any legal reason, the insurer quits his responsibility.

This would be immaterial that the ship returned to her original route before loss. The insurer can quit his responsibility only when there is actual deviation and not mere intention to deviation.


There are following exceptions of delay and deviation warranties:

1. Deviation or delay is authorised according to a particular warranty of the policy.

2. When the delay or deviation was beyond the reasonable approach of the master or crew.

3. The deviation or delay is exempted for the safety of ship or insured matter or human lives.

4. Deviation or delay was due to barratry.

7. Proximate Cause:

According to Section 55 (1) Marine Insurance Act,’ Subject to the provisions of the Act and unless the policy otherwise provides the insurer is liable for any loss proximately caused by a peril insured against, but subject to as aforesaid he is not liable for any loss which is not proximately caused by a peril insured against.’

Section 55 (2) enumerates the losses which are not payable are (i) misconduct of the assured (ii) delay although the delay be caused by a peril insured against (iii) ordinary wear and tear, ordinary leakage and breakage inherent vice or nature of the subject matter insured, or any loss proximately caused by rates or vermin or any injury to machinery not proximately caused by maritime perils

1. The insurer is not liable for any loss attributable to the willful misconduct of the assured, but, unless the policy otherwise provides, he is liable for any loss proximately caused by a peril insured against.

2. The insurer will not be liable for any loss caused by delay unless otherwise provided.

3. The insurer is not liable for ordinary wear and tear, ordinary leakage and breakage, inherent vice or nature of subject-matter insured, or for any loss proximately caused by rats or vermin, or for any injury to machinery not proximately caused by maritime perils.

Dover says “The cause proximate of a loss is the cause of the loss, proximate to the loss, not necessarily in time, but in efficiency. While remote causes may be disregarded in determining the cause of a loss, the doctrine must be interpreted with good sense.” So as to uphold and not defeat the intention of the parties to the contract.

Thus the proximate cause is the actual cause of the loss. There must be direct and non-intervening cause. The insurer will be liable for any loss proximately caused by peril insured against.

8. Assignment:

A marine policy is assignable unless it contains terms expressly prohibiting assignment. It may be assigned either before or after loss. A marine policy may be assigned by endorsement thereon or on other customary manner.

A marine policy is freely assignable unless assignment is express prohibited. A marine policy is not an incident of sale. So, if there is intention to assign a policy when interest passes, there must be an agreement to this effect.

Sections 53 of the Marine Insurance Act, 1963 states, Where the assured has parted with or lost his interest in the subject-matter insured and has not, before or at time of so doing, expressly or impliedly agreed to assign the policy, any subsequent assignment of the policy is inoperative. ‘

Section 17 of the Act states, “Where the asserted assigns or otherwise parts with his interest in the subject-matter insured, he does not thereby transfer to the assignee his rights under the contracts of insurance.

The feature of return of premium has been already discussed in the portion of life insurance.