Record claims have hit the International Group of Protection & Indemnity (P&I) Clubs' pool. These have exceeded losses from each of the last five years, according to a club manager.

A Bilbrough & Co chief executive Paul Hinton said: "The estimated amount of claims put into the pool [for 2002] is more than it was in 1997, which was the highest year in the last five years."

"Our own figure has increased from between $2.4m and $2.5m to $7m, and 2003 is very high too.

"Earlier years were much lower - only 1997 was at this sort of level."

He said that although International Group clubs are paying more to use the pool than in the past, the London Club is in balance.

The higher cost of participating in the pool was offset by a dip in the London Club's 2002 individual claims level.