The role of a company run by UK marine insurance veteran David Skinner in underwriting sanctioned North Korean vessels has been revealed in a new report.
An investigation by Danish journalists from newspaper Dagbladet Information, and also reported by the Financial Times, has linked Skinner — who died in 2016 — to insuring the ships through his British Virgin Islands company, DGS Marine.
It is alleged that the organisation was involved in insuring anywhere between 29 and 100 North Korean ships.
The claims have been backed by quotes from Hugh Griffiths, who worked on a United Nations panel monitoring North Korean sanctions, former DGS employees and numerous documents and emails.
Griffiths is quoted as saying: “They kept North Korea’s foreign trade fleet afloat.”
Skinner, who said he had previously worked for the Standard Club, Skuld and the West of England, established DGS Marine as a fixed premium P&I insurer, run by British European & Overseas P&I, in 2006.
The company had drawn speculation over activities because of the opaque nature of its corporate structure. Leading insurance brokers did not handle its business.
Skinner told TradeWinds in 2016, just before he died from a heart attack at the age of 52, that the company had premium income of $36.5m, total assets of almost $138m and a contingency reserve of $119m.
DGS Marine had a high profile, with a corporate video narrated by popular UK newsreader and journalist Natasha Kaplinsky displayed on the website of the UK Chamber of Shipping.
Skinner had vigorously denied reports in UK paper The Sunday Telegraph in 2012 that his company had been involved in the insurance of two Iranian vessels transporting Syrian-owned oil.
The UK’s HM Treasury department also accepted Skinner’s explanation that he had withdrawn cover from the vessels in response to sanctions.
The Danish report has now linked DGS Marine with providing insurance certificates to North Korean company Ocean Maritime Management, which was targeted by the United Nations’ Security Council in 2014 for smuggling weapons to Cuba.
The insurance was in direct breach of UN sanctions preventing the insurance of North Korean-flagged ships.
It is suggested the company was providing Blue Cards for North Korean vessels to trade rather than genuine insurance cover.