Ascot Underwriting is set to double its cargo premium income this year.

The escalating price of cargo insurance during the Iraq war was one of the main reasons for the increase.

Current forecasts put Ascot's premium income from cargo business at

$40m (£25m) for 2003. This compares to $20m (£12.5m) last year. Ascot chief executive Martin Reith said the insurer was anticipating a "dramatic increase" in cargo business in 2003.

During the Iraq war earlier this year, Reith said the cost of weekly war insurance for an oil tanker in Kuwait had doubled overnight to £127,000.

The reason for the sharp short-term rise was that cover for cargo ships is sold in seven-day blocks, so that rates can be modified as conditions change.

l Ascot has recruited Willis's Peter Coleman as an international property underwriter, subject to Lloyd's approval. He will write non-US property business.

Property rates have risen by only 10%-15% this year, compared to increases of around 50% last year.