Q&A with Ian Lennard, President, National Cargo Bureau (NCB)

In a nutshell, how would you describe the main role of the NCB?

NCB is a not for profit organisation dedicated to our mission of safety of life and cargo at sea. We were created in 1952 to assist the industry and the U.S. Coast Guard in the discharge of its responsibilities under the 1948 SOLAS Convention which addressed the carriage of dangerous goods for the first time. All of our services performed for the industry and the Coast Guard are designed and carried out with the intent to enhance our mission.


You recently published a white paper highlighting a holistic approach to enhancing safety and addressing the carriage of undeclared, misdeclared and other non-complaint dangerous goods, is this the biggest challenge facing container shipping today? 

As far as enhancing safety I would say it is, as it is quite literally comparable to finding a needle in a haystack. The challenge is the balance between safety and efficiencies (both economic and operational). Certainly opening up and physically inspecting the contents of each container is neither economically nor operationally possible. Conversely, ignoring the issue leads to loss of life and property. The key is finding solutions that balance safety with efficiency such as improved targeting for container inspections and automated screening of the documentation for potential mis or undeclared cargo.


How does the NCB and IUMI work together?

NCB personnel have presented at several IUMI annual conferences over the years, most recently last year in Toronto, where I was on a panel discussing containership fires. We have a shared common interest in our mission of safety of life and cargo at sea as does the entire industry. As a result we are mutually involved in working groups and organisations whose purpose is to create solutions to some of these difficult issues. We also participate in the American Institute of Marine Underwriters (AIMU) committees, IUMI’s U.S. member.


Is there anything that you would like to see underwriters do differently or better?

Stay focused on underwriting discipline; thoroughly vetting risks and maintaining the necessary controls to reduce losses. This should go a long way in weeding out bad actors in the supply chain.


Do you have a view on the current state of the marine insurance market?

From what I understand the market continues to harden despite the uncertainty induced by the current global pandemic. We see this as a great opportunity for underwriters, through increased discipline and more robust controls, to work with their insureds to ensure best practices are being followed and the risks associated with mis-declared and other non-compliant dangerous good shipments are reduced.


If you were not in your current role what would be your ideal job?

Nothing specifically, but what I do enjoy about my current role is that NCB has a mission which demands that through our efforts ships and really the entire industry become a safer place. Everything we do furthers our mission. It is extremely gratifying knowing that we have helped make the industry safer. So my ideal job would give me that same sort of satisfaction.


What do you like doing when not working? 

Skiing in the winter, tennis, hiking and relaxing with family and friends.