'SILK ROAD' PROJECT MAY SPUR CARGO COVERPosted On: Sep. 20, 1998 12:00 AM CST
An agreement signed Sept. 7 by 12 nations from central Asia, the Caucasus and the Black Sea area to rebuild the "Silk Road" could mean new business opportunities for insurers.
The Silk Road is the ancient trading route between Europe and China via the Caucasus.
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Ukraine, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkey signed an accord in Baku, Azerbaijan, to upgrade all forms of infrastructure, regulations and customs procedures.
"If this goes ahead, it will be of great importance to insurers," said Buniat Sardarov, director at Sedgwick Azeri Ltd. in Baku. "Now there is already some oil coming in from Kazakhstan by sea to Baku and then by rail to the Black Sea. All this has to be insured. This is a great opportunity for insurers," Mr. Sardarov observed.
But Danny Fushchych, deputy general manager at Kiev, Ukraine-based Bain Hogg International, a division of Aon Corp., remains circumspect.
"This is a very expensive project. People do talk about it, but it is not something to be done today. We need to create the road infrastructure," Mr. Fushchych said. A re-created Silk Road would have only a short route through Ukraine, he noted.
Ingosstrakh has offices in all the former Soviet republics and, hence, in all the countries along the Silk Road. But the Russian insurer is losing its dominance in the region's cargo market.
"The volume of cargo from the central Asian republics to Russia is falling," noted Nikolai Lychakin, director of cargo insurance at Ingosstrakh. But as business with central Asia declines, Ingosstrakh's eyes are turning to the other end of the Silk Road, in China.
"We are now very interested in China and have opened a representative office there. We are considering all prospects of cooperation with China. Reinsurance is written in all directions, but cargo is the first step," Mr. Lychakin said.