Atrium has reduced its marine and parts of its aviation business because of overcapacity and increased competition.

Instead in 2004 the company will focus more on non-marine property, aviation and space and energy.

Syndicate 609 active underwriter Christine Dandridge said: "The marine sector has never restored itself and everyone is slow to increase rates. We find that we are writing very little new business, which is why we have gone into other spheres." Syndicate 609 now writes 10% marine business and 20% aviation only.

As for aviation, the underwriter said that this sector is still highly competitive. Atrium chief executive Nick Marsh said: "Rates in the aviation war market are approximately half of what they were immediately post-September 11. The level of premium has also dropped because of government assistance.

"Over the long term we are looking at increasing the share we have in our managed syndicates. We currently have a 15% share but we want to increase this to 85%," he added.

Despite the shift in direction Atrium announced an increase of 83% on its pre-tax profit, which for 2003 was £18.8m. Gross written premiums also increased by 23% from £129m in 2002 to £159m in 2003.

Marsh said: "We have produced excellent results because we continued to grow through the hard market and the use of gearing resulted in a nice return on equity."