The Business Insurance Bureau

This is what it is to be a broker

Published 05/10/2021 Author: Bob Hannah, 2min read


It was over 20 years ago when a cloud of microscopic dots drifted slowly across the River Clyde, in the dreary heat of a sunny autumn day.

A cloud of red lead, off-spray, from the big ship they were spraying at the now erstwhile and then locally somewhat lampooned Glasgow shipyard, Kvaerner Govan.

Kvaerner were locally somewhat lampooned, because of an ongoing inability to launch a ship without damaging the brand-new vessel, like the Royal Navy’s HMS Ocean, which they were seemingly unable to stop whizzing straight into the river bank opposite. “It was extremely hairy,” a witness told the Herald, “You don’t want to see a 20,500-tonne ship out of control coming towards you.”


This was embarrassingly soon after the fiasco of the £4m offshore wave-power station Osprey, which had a hiccup at its launch from the UIE in Clydebank, and sank within weeks of being installed in the Pentland Firth.

It wasn't the first time Kvaerner Govan had suffered a mis-launch

It wasn’t the first time Kvaerner Govan had suffered a mis-launch and after the HMS Ocean episode, local bookies were quoting ‘hat trick’ odds on the next launch but equally, it wasn’t the first time the red lead off-spray had drifted across the river during spraying, but this time, it was just a tad more serious.

The earlier incident was of no great consequence, Kvaerner had settled up for about £25,000 quid and the management of the yard were told to put sheeting up before spraying, alas, they didn’t bother. As the cloud settled down on the opposite bank, this time it settled down on hundreds of brand new Fords: Mondeos, Focuses, Transits and Fiestas.

All these Fords were kept on a pound on the dockside and under the careful watch and control of our client, Brian Lynch of the Clyde Car Valet Service. As the dealerships sold a ford, Clyde Car Valet Service would prep and valet the car for dispatch to the dealer and customer. At that time, Ford ran a promotion that it you didn’t like your new car, for any reason, you could exchange it for a new one within one month.

We had to get in touch with the yard to point out they'd done it again

So, when we got in touch with the yard to point out they’d done it yet again and this time the consequences were potentially truly off the page, Kvaerner’s Norwegian insurers burst into action. Representatives from the plant came to inspect cars and then the high heidyins turned up.

A chief representative flew in from Kvaerner’s insurers, Uni Storebrand, in Oslo to meet me and after a short meeting with the plant manager at the yard we retreated to La Fiorentrina for lunch.

I explained that the Ford exchange guarantee meant that even if our Brian could clean the red lead off the cars, the exchange promise left Ford exposed if any of the dots remained, moreover, it was possible the red lead, if untreated quickly would ‘burn’ into the paintwork, rendering the cars valueless. It was important to settle this now. Today.

This was a fair enough point, and technically true, I believed, based on something Brian had said but what I omitted to say was that it would cost about £25 per car to treat them and Brian was confident it would work, although processing hundreds of cars quickly was a big job.

Believing she was faced with a potential bill of millions of pounds for ruined Fords the chief representative announced her own personal settlement authority was £90,000, so I suggested we settle for £89,000, and Brian would endeavor to spare them any further hassle.

This is what it is to be a broker.

This is what it is to be a broker. On days like these, negotiation, like underwriting, is an art form.

Kvaerner’s insurers were relieved. Brian was delighted. He did such a good job, no one ever knew their Ford had an extra clean.

I believe the world-wide head of Kvaerner thereafter wrote to the plant and told them if they ever did that again he would shut the place down. It’s hard to know how much the mi-launches and the painting episodes contributed to Kvaerner’s decision to give up shipbuilding altogether but in 1999 the plant found new owners, Marconi Electric, who, in turn, merged into BAE Systems shortly thereafter and who still run the yard to this day.

These days they use a launch platform like in this video. 

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