* Canal working as normal on Monday
* Ship underwriting official unaware of any rise in premiums
(Adds further comment, detail, background)
By Jonathan Saul
LONDON, Jan 31 No direct threat to ships passing
through the strategic Suez Canal waterway exists at the moment,
despite unrest in Egypt, a senior official with London's marine
insurance market said on Monday.
More than 100 people have been killed in seven days of
protests aimed at ending Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's
30-year-old rule. The uprising has rattled global investors.
"We are not seeing anything that would give us any
particular cause for concern at this stage," said Neil Roberts,
a senior technical executive with the Lloyd's Market
The 192-km (120-mile) canal is the key passageway for
Europe's crude oil and imported goods. Egypt earned nearly $5
billion last year in receipts from shipping traffic.
"There is no direct to threat to ships that we can see and
it would be counter intuitive for the Egyptians to do anything
with Suez that would stop their flow of trade," said Roberts,
whose association represents the interests of all underwriting
businesses in the Lloyd's market.
For a graphic and factbox on the canal: [ID:nLDE70Q1VB]
Roberts said he was not aware of any rise in insurance
premiums on ships travelling via Suez. "It's speculation," he
told Reuters. "I doubt there is any substance to that as a
A senior canal official said the waterway, which is the
quickest sea route between Asia and Europe, was working as
normal on Monday. The city of Suez has been the scene of some of
the most violent protests in recent days. [ID:nLDE70U0RK]
"The Egyptian military has bolstered its presence around the
critical waterway and in the event of further unrest it will
remain a major priority for army protection," security firm AKE
Shipping agents said they were unable to board vessels
during the curfew time, which had been imposed across Egypt.
Crude oil and refined products volume accounted for around
15 percent of Suez cargoes in 2009, with over 50 percent of
transits made by container ships transporting finished goods
from electronics to toys.
"It is very easy to see that the political situation is
unstable and there could certainly be damage from riots. That is
something that cargo underwriters will bear in mind but they
can't react in the short-term," Roberts said.
DP World Limited DPW.DI, the world's third largest ports
operator said it had temporarily suspended its Egypt port
terminal operations as a precautionary measure. Danish shipping
and oil group A.P. Moller-Maersk (MAERSKb.CO) said it had also
suspended its port terminal operations and closed its shipping
offices. [ID:nLDE70U19O] [ID:nWEA4713]
"Even if Western companies become a major target for the
protesters, we believe that shipping traffic through the canal
is unlikely to be seriously imperilled, though some individual
ships docked in port might be at risk of attack if the situation
deteriorates further," Barclays Capital said in a note.