I have long taken an interest in the history of the “ghost ship” Mary Celeste and was intrigued by your article about her subsequent fate (Insurance Times, August 16).

She was found abandoned and with no one on board in November 1872 off the Azores.

The captain, who perished with his wife, daughter and all hands, was Benjamin Briggs, an extremely honourable seafarer. The Mary Celeste subsequently ran ashore on Rochelais Bank in Haiti some 13 years later under Captain Gilman Parker.

He was charged with the wilful wrecking of a vessel (barratry) which, at that time, carried the death penalty under US law.

According to a surveyor, Kingman Putnam, who had been retained by underwriters, what was “practically a dummy cargo of fish, rubber, shoes, etc, was put on board and heavily insured”.

The insurance cover was said to have been $25,000 (£17,000) and “the arrest was made at the instance of the insurance companies on the testimony of the mate”.

Putman said nine of the 12 jurymen found for the insurers, but three did not convict for conspiracy, fearing it might influence the jury that was going to try him for barratry.

Notice was given for a new trial and the shippers came forward and acknowledged their guilt. One shipper repaid, with interest, the $5,000 (£3,400) collected for a cargo of rotten fish and paid the government $1,000 (£680) towards the cost of the suit.
John Jackson

Cracking down on drivers
Regarding the article “Drive to crack down on insureds” (Insurance Times, August 9), who is this unnamed spokesman for the Association of British Drivers who feels insurers should do more to rid the roads of uninsured drivers? Of course we would like to see a substantial reduction in uninsured drivers, but how do we, as insurers or brokers, have the right to do so?

Where does this spokesman get the “paltry £20 and £50 fines that are slapped on uninsured motorists”? Anyone who approaches this office with an IN10 conviction has normally paid a fine well in excess of £200, plus at least six points endorsement on their licence.

There has to be another way to deal with this problem and perhaps it would be that when any uninsured driver is caught, the car is taken away and the licence endorsed much more heavily.

An alternative is for a telephone number to be made available, so that any motorist who knows or thinks they know of an uninsured driver could pass on the information and let the police investigate through their new database.
ID Bevan-Mogg
Vaughan Insurance Brokers

The city of Nottingham is renowned for its conviction rate on visitors to the city, rather than locals, through their extensive use of speed cameras, which some allege are designed for revenue collection rather than road safety matters.

One of the factors with regard to the number of increased speeding convictions is the number of good drivers often caught by these alleged revenue-generating cameras being convicted.

This situation not only alienates a large proportion of the population against the police, but is also now starting to alienate the motoring public against insurers, who fail to recognise the fact that many of these offences probably do not increase the chances of accidents in the future or losses to insurers.

However, I have been alarmed by the attitude of some underwriters to the incidence of speeding in relation to loadings imposed.

For example, we had difficulty with Groupama, which seemed to load very heavily, and recently Zurich has started to load 25%, even where a client may only have one speeding offence in any year in addition to a minor accident where there was previously an unblemished record.

It is extremely important that all the facts are always given to the insurers, but if the insurers impose unjustified double penalties to the motorists with one or two minor speeding offences, then I am of the opinion that the increasing hostility could be directed against the insurers as well as the police.
Derek A Eastwood
Derek Eastwood Insurance Brokers

Partnership Saga
Your story suggesting Norwich Union and Saga were going “head to head” to provide insurance services for the over-50s (Insurance Times, August 30) could not have been wider of the mark.

The fact is that, for many years, Norwich Union has enjoyed a successful partnership with Saga to meet the needs of customers in this important segment of the market. Any insurer with a marketing focus would look to segment markets effectively and, where appropriate, work alongside affinity organisations to deliver tailored solutions that customers really want.

It goes without saying that we look forward to continuing our successful relationship with Saga now and into the future.
Derek Plummer
Corporate partnerships director
Norwich Union

Response to Reg's rage
I was sorry to have provoked Reg Brown, one of the last of the great “Lloyd's Men”, to such an inchoate roar of rage recently (Insurance Times, August 16).

To answer his question, “where do we go from here?”, the answer must surely be that the old way of doing things has proved to be a complete disaster.

There needs to be a concerted move to increase the quantity and quality of investment information from underwriters to Names and their agents so investment decisions are not made in ignorance.

There needs to be greater concentration on Names' rights. It is, for example, de facto impossible for individual Names to call an emergency general meeting and some of the contractual relationships, such as the general undertaking, are oppressive and offensive.

Lloyd's regulation has proved worthless at preventing both losses (Mr Brown boasts of David Gittings' regular reviews of agencies) and the more egregious examples of “Lloydsmanship”, and should be properly external and independent.

Associateship of the Chartered Insurance Institute (ACII) is required for underwriters as a hoop-jumping exercise. The fact that neither the chairman of Lloyd's nor the director of regulation have such a qualification shows how greatly it is valued and sets the example.

My final comment, that other City professionals “look on us with deserved and ill-concealed scorn”, is based on a conversation with a Freshfields solicitor who had worked at Lloyd's and was singularly unimpressed.

There is, perhaps, one abiding fault at Lloyd's and that is the complete refusal to listen to others.
CJ Ross

Alan Bavin/ARB
Further to last week's correction concerning the letter published in Insurance Times (August 23) under the name of Alan Bavin, we have been asked by ARB International to make it clear that the company was not connected with the letter in any way and the views expressed in it are not its views nor the views of any employee of the company.

The letter was sent mischievously.

Norwich Union has not withdrawn from the motor market, as reported in Insurance Times' August Motor supplement.

The UK's largest insurer – insuring one in five vehicles – is very much committed to the private motor market, hence the fact it sponsored the supplement.

We accept the claim that Norwich Union had withdrawn from the motor market was completely unsubstantiated and are happy to set the record straight.