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Commercial insurance buyers with marine exposures want their insurers to clearly state how -- or if -- they will cover risks related to the Year 2000 computer problem, a broker says.

"I haven't seen, at least in Germany, any clear statement from the insurance industry," said Ralf Geck, managing director-risk services at Aon Jauch & Huebener in Mulheim, Germany, during a forum on Year 2000 exposures at this year's International Union of Marine Insurers' conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

In a recent survey of its customers, Aon Jauch & Huebener found buyers are becoming increasingly anxious for insurers to clarify their coverage position because this year's renewals will produce policies and rates effective for the period which includes Jan. 1, 2000.

Mr. Geck accused the insurance industry of having "a tremendous communications problem with their customers" on this issue.

Instead of clear statements from insurers on coverage under existing policies, policyholders instead are receiving brochures describing the range of problems that might emerge when computers that read only the last two digits of the year are thrown into confusion by the year 2000, Mr. Geck said.

Policyholders also complain that they are inundated with questionnaires from insurers asking how they are preparing for the Y2K problem, but rarely receive any feedback about how this information will be used by insurers.

What Aon Jauch & Huebener's survey also found is that policyholders believe governments should be more involved in solving Year 2000 problems. Among their suggestions was the creation of national databases on the Internet to share information on solutions, and the creation of catastrophic insurance pools to provide financial assistance in case Year 2000 losses reach disastrous proportions.

A rebuttal from the insurance industry was provided by a member of the audience who expressed frustration with getting his message across to insureds.

"We're not having problems with customers. We're having problems getting through the only two brokers on the planet. When are you guys going to get off our backs on this one and put some of the responsibility on the customers?" Jerry Giroux, president of Eastern Marine Underwriters of Toronto, asked Mr. Geck. The comment received a hearty round of applause.

Providing the policyholder's view, Declan Connoly, managing director of DFDS Transport Ltd. of Harwich, England, said his company has taken the Year 2000 threat very seriously and expects all of its systems to be fully compliant by the end of October.

As a result, DFDS expects "where it has been clearly demonstrated that all reasonable efforts have been made to identify and resolve Year 2000 issues, that full insurance cover will be given for all loss or damages," he said.