'Coldest Journey' Under Way

Lloyd's and other insurers have written a custom policy covering a team's bid to traverse Antarctica in winter for the first time and raise millions of a dollars for a charity trying to prevent blindness.

The participants involved in The Coldest Journey, billed as an unprecedented attempt to traverse Antarctica in winter, are attempting a feat considered by Lloyd's of London as "one of the largest and most challenging polar expeditions ever undertaken." A Lloyd's broker and a group of Lloyd's syndicates are among the insurance entities that have written a bespoke (custom) policy covering the expedition, which left London on Dec. 6 aboard a research ship, the SA Agulhas. If the group's timetable holds, the six ice team members will begin a six-month traverse on March 21, 2013, and will cross Antarctica via the South Pole.

The two goals of the expedition are scientific research and to raise at least $10 million for Seeing is Believing, a UK charity that is trying to eliminate preventable blindness around the world. It is a collaboration between Standard Chartered Bank, which matches every dollar raised by Seeing is Believing, and the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness.

The expedition's website say its leader, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, and his companions intend to travel nearly 4,000 kilometers, mostly in darkness and at temperatures as low as -90 degrees Celsius.

According to an article about the expedition posted by Lloyd's, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office previously "has refused permission to take on the challenge because it has always been deemed far too risky and the chances of disaster too high. However, permission was granted for this expedition after it was shown that technological innovations could mitigate some of the major risks of the crossing. Insurance also played a critical role in obtaining permission. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office required evidence of adequate insurance cover to ensure that the pristine Antarctic environment would be protected," it states.

The policy covers search and rescue and also the cost of remediating any environmental damage, such as by removing broken-down or abandoned equipment.

"This is the insurance market at its very best and insurance broking at its most creative. JLT have worked with us for many months to design the cover and bring the risk to the market, finding a leading Lloyd's underwriter in Beazley, and placing it in the co-insurance market," said Tony Medniuk, who chairs the expedition's Board of Trustees. As a charity, the expedition is now trying to have the insurance premium sponsored, he added.

The Lloyd's article says the six-member team will drive two specially adapted caterpillar tractors that will pull two converted cabooses containing supplies, fuel, and their dormitory, workshop, and science laboratory. Team members with crevasse detection equipment will ski ahead of the vehicles.

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