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PORT STANLEY, Falkland Islands-An increase in commerce on the Falkland Islands has prompted the government to make employers liability insurance mandatory.

The Executive Committee of the islands' authority, the Falkland Islands Government, or FIG, made the insurance obligatory as of Jan. 1. Commerce on the sparsely populated islands has expanded since the mid-1980s. The Falklands are a British South Atlantic dependency.

Since then, private sector commercial life on the islands has been boosted by the sale of fishing licenses and increased tourism. Last year the FIG authorized a number of U.S., British and European oil companies to explore for oil offshore.

"There were no lawyers on these islands before 1986. Most disputes were settled between the people and the government. There is no history of people suing each other as such. But now with things opening up they might go the way of the U.K. and the U.S.," said Drew Irvine. Mr. Irvine is director of Consultancy Services (Falklands) Ltd., a Port Stanley-based division of Aberdeen, Scotland-based accounting firm, Pannell Kerr Forster.

There also has been an effort to bring matters such as health and safety standards up to date with U.K. practice, said Richard Storey, divisional director at London-based insurance brokers HSBC Gibbs. FIG itself already includes employers liability insurance in its insurance program.

HSBC Gibbs is the insurance broker for FIG, which is the islands' largest employer, and places risks such as building, aviation liability, employers liability and hospital medical malpractice in the London market.

The Falkland Islands' population is only 2,500, plus 2,500 British military personnel.