Beazley is at the centre of an international controversy for its involvement in a convoy of highly-polluted US navy 'ghost ships' being sent to Britain for scrapping.

The plan to dismantle 13 vessels in Hartlepool has been attacked by MPs, environmentalists and MEPs from Britain, Belgium, Holland, France and Ireland.

They are concerned that the decaying ships will leak oil and other pollutants causing an environmental disaster.

The ships contain asbestos, carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and up to half a million tonnes of marine diesel oil.

Market sources indicated that Beazley underwrote the ships' journey by tug from their current moorings in Virginia, US.

Beazley was unable to comment as Insurance Times went to press.

The controversy surfaced as Beazley unveiled its maiden interim results, showing a combined ratio of 80% on its managed syndicates, but relatively modest pre-tax profits of £2.5m as a result of the group's limited exposure to the hard market since its IPO in November.

Finance director Andrew Horton said: "It's only next year that we will have the real impression of what the earnings power is."

Gross written premiums rose by 51% .