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The Upton Group Launches Delivery Service Program for Restaurants, Small Businesses

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The Upton Group, LLC, a national insurance agency specializing in food delivery and restaurant insurance, has created a new website for restaurants and small businesses impacted by government orders to shut down to obtain insurance coverage for delivery-only services.

There are two program options available on www.mydeliveryinsurance.com for restaurants and small businesses that are negatively impacted by government actions that requires businesses to close or limit service to delivery.

Qualified businesses include but are not limited to:

  • Restaurants independent or franchise
  • Grocery stores
  • Liquor stores

Coverage options include hired and non-owned auto insurance provides third party liability coverage for the business when an employee uses their personal vehicle for business purposes such as delivering products (food, grocery etc…). The coverage sits in excess of the driver’s own insurance.

Other program highlights include:

  • Short term policies of 3 months or 6 months
  • Multiple limits available from $100,000 up to $1.5 million
  • Monthly premiums starting at $1,500
  • Options in all 50 states

According to Jason Upton, president, the insurance program will bring small business owners an insurance option during shutdowns related to the coronavirus to remain open by offering delivery service.

Restaurant franchisees, owners and other small business owners can begin the process by visiting the website www.mydeliveryinsurance.com or by emailing or calling The Upton Group, LLC.

The Upton Group is based in Guntersville, Ala., with a primary focus on pizza delivery franchises and other food delivery company’s and restaurants. The primary specialized coverage for such business is hired and non-owned auto insurance. Other policies coverages include property & general liability, workman’s comp, employment practices among other specialty lines. Jason Upton is a former pizzeria franchisee of 17 years.

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Global Supply Chains Strained as Ship Crews Are Stuck in Lockdown

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Port restrictions and canceled flights are straining the ability to replace seafarers on board ships, further weakening global supply chains already snarled by the coronavirus pandemic.

Hubs like Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Shanghai have halted most crew transfers, while global lockdowns have complicated travel from the Philippines, which supplies about a quarter of the world’s seafarers.

At risk is the flow of goods like food, medicine and energy via commercial shipping, which accounts for about 80% of global trade. While unseen by most consumers, restrictions on crews are among the unprecedented challenges wrought by the virus, which has ground major economies to a halt.

“Most ports have stopped crew changes as part of a concerted effort to prevent the spread of the virus,” Philippine Transmarine Carriers Inc. Chief Executive Officer Gerardo Borromeo said. “Our problem is trying to solve a complex logistics issue of getting crew onto limited flights to countries that will allow such changes at their ports.”

About 100,000 seafarers each month need to be changed over from ships to comply with maritime rules that regulate safe working hours and crew welfare, according to a March 19 letter from the International Chamber of Shipping. If changeover restrictions continue there could be fewer available ships and higher freight costs, said Dario Alampay, chairman of the Filipino Shipowners Association.

Countries and ports should consider exemptions for seafarers similar to those granted to airline and health workers, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Essential medicine and equipment is already being held up in several ports in Europe, it said.

“You do not want to risk working with a fatigued, overworked crew,” said Alampay. Exhausted seafarers are more prone to distress and lack of focus, which can lead to accidents, he said. The longest seafarers should be on board a ship is 11 months, according to the Maritime Labor Convention.

The Philippines has about 300,000 seafarers for cargo ships and roughly 200,000 of those are currently out at sea and the rest are onshore, according to an estimate from Doris Magsaysay-Ho, president of A. Magsaysay Inc., a Manila-based shipping and manning company.

Industry and government should work together this month to establish protocols that include temperature checks and 14-day quarantines for crew changes, said Borromeo. This will likely increase shipowners’ costs, he said.

Another option is for shipowners to drop off and pick up crews in Manila. Some foreign ship owners are already looking at this option, according to Alampay, who said deviating on a route that runs from Japan or Singapore to Australia to change a crew in Manila could add an extra three days and drive up costs by as much as $15,000 a day for a Supramax vessel.

Luis, a seafarer who asked only that he be identified by his first name, was supposed to disembark at Egypt’s Suez port last month from a vessel he’s been on for more than nine months. Travel restrictions in Egypt prevented him from leaving and management has told him all crew changes are suspended until mid-April, although that’s subject to change.

Typical rotations on cargo vessels last between three and nine months and seafarers often work 12-hour days, six days a week.

“The risk of being too long on a ship is mental and physical stress,” Luis said in a message. “I’m worried about my family, and when I can go home. I’m worried if I can go home safely. I’m really tired, but I have no choice.”

In China, substitution of maritime crews is limited in some ports and forbidden in others, according to a list of restrictions from marine insurer The North of England Protecting & Indemnity Association Ltd. Abu Dhabi has prohibited crew changes for three months and Singapore disallowed crew changes for the time being, though it has recently allowed some exemptions.

The 80% of global trade transported by commercial shipping include food, energy and raw materials, as well as manufactured goods and components, according to UNCTAD.

Volumes at port operator International Container Terminal Services Inc., which has terminals in nearly 20 countries, likely fell 10% to 15% last month and are expected to decline further in April, Chairman Enrique Razon said Tuesday. Terminals in Latin America are the hardest-hit, while those in Australia and Africa are holding steady, he said.

“It’s important to keep sea trade flowing,” said Jim Aquines, 36, a chief engineer who was supposed to be deployed this month from the Philippines but remains at home. “Restrictions will cripple not only seafarers but countries who rely on overseas supplies.”

Photograph: Shipping containers stacked at the Yangshan Deepwater Port in Shanghai on March 23.

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UK MGA Aqueous Underwriting Offers COVID-Crisis Help for Hospitality, Leisure Clients

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Aqueous Underwriting, a London-based managing general agent, has responded to the coronavirus crisis with a package of measures designed to help its clients in the food, hospitality and leisure sectors, which were forced to closed or curtail operations when the UK government announced a countrywide lockdown on March 23.

These measures include removing unoccupied exclusions for policyholders forced to close their businesses, free liability insurance add-ons for businesses now offering takeaway services, and three-month policies for businesses uncertain about their future.

Further explaining these moves, Aqueous said it has removed certain unoccupied premises exclusions for businesses forced to temporarily close their doors to comply with government restrictions. They will now remain covered for claims including material damage, theft and escape of water, said Aqueous, noting that the removal of the exclusions is available to policyholders at no additional cost.

Aqueous will also be offering free employers, public and products liability insurance to any existing SME customers wanting to start providing takeaway food and drink delivery services. The move is in response to the switch by some restaurants and food outlets able to move from a dining in, to takeaway and delivery model, which is permitted under the rules of the lockdown.

(Editor’s note: The UK has taken a phased approach in its COVID-19 response. Although Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the full lockdown on March 23, people were advised on March 16 to avoid all non-essential contact and unnecessary travel, which was followed by further advice on March 20, when all bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants were closed).

“It’s all too clear that sadly the liquidity and very existence of many UK SMEs in the hospitality and leisure sectors will come under tremendous pressure in the coming days and weeks as the government’s efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic come into effect,” said Tom Hill, executive director at Aqueous.

“We hope that the measures we’re offering our brokers will help business owners in these industries in some small way as they try to weather the impact of this unprecedent event,” he continued.

Additionally, Aqueous is offering their brokers new and extended renewal terms to SME businesses in the hospitality and leisure industry. All annual renewals due in the next 90 days will be offered the option of a three-month policy as current economic uncertainty makes longer-term business decisions more difficult.

About Aqueous Underwriting

Aqueous Underwriting is an MGA that provides a range of professional indemnity and professional combined liability products to SMEs in the food, hospitality, leisure and hotel industries.

Aqueous Underwriting is a trading name of Aqueous Management Limited (AqML), an appointed representative of Ambant Underwriting Services Ltd., a firm authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Source: Aqueous Underwriting

Photograph: A view of an empty Shaftesbury Avenue around what would normally be theater opening time in London’s West End on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered public meeting places like theaters, pubs, and restaurants across the country to close in unprecedented measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski / PA via AP.

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Australia Regulator Urges Insurers, Banks to Delay Dividends Amid Coronavirus Crisis

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Australia’s prudential regulator on Tuesday asked banks and insurers to consider deferring dividend payouts or use buffers like dividend reinvestment plans until the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is better known.

But the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) stopped short of giving an official directive, even as central banks across the world have restricted plans to return capital to investors as the outbreak threatens earnings and disrupts operations.

APRA asked banks and insurers to limit discretionary capital distributions so that they have sufficient capacity to continue essential functions like lending and underwriting insurance.

“Banks and insurers have a critical role to play in supporting Australian households, businesses and the broader economy during this period of significant disruption caused by COVID-19,” the regulator advised in a letter to the sector.

Spokesmen for Commonwealth Bank and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, the No. 1 and fourth largest lenders respectively, declined to comment.

Media representatives for Australia’s other two major banks, Westpac Banking Corp. and National Australia Bank, did not return requests for comment.

The regulator said dividends will need to be at a “materially reduced level” even when a board is confident that it can approve a dividend before conducting stress tests that will need to be discussed with APRA.

APRA added it expects boards to appropriately limit cash bonuses for executives and initiate other capital management plans on a pre-emptive basis, to maintain customer confidence and continue lending.

Analysts had already forecast that Australia’s Big Four banks may cut dividends in coming weeks due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings downgraded the debt ratings of the four major banks and their debt instruments by one notch to ‘A+’, from ‘AA-‘ on Tuesday, the first of the three major credit agencies to do so. S&P Global and Moody’s Investor Service rate the “Big Four” Australian lenders ‘AA-‘ and ‘Aa3’ respectively.

“The move by Fitch may slightly increase the marginal cost of senior unsecured bond issues for the major banks,” said Azib Khan, banking analyst at stockbroker Morgans Financial.

“However, this isn’t much of an issue for the major banks at the moment because they have access to cheap funding through the RBA’s Term Funding Facility,” Khan added, referring to the central bank’s three-year lending facility that charges them only 0.25%.

(Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney and Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; editing by Edmund Blair/Giles Elgood/Susan Fenton)

Photograph: Medical staff works in the negative-pressure isolation ward in Jinyintan Hospital, designated for critical COVID-19 patients, in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. Photo credit: Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images.

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