UK WAR RISKS - Chairman Retires

Bob Crawford calls time on his work for Thomas Miller mutuals

As a Director of Thomas Miller-managed mutuals, 86-year-old Bob Crawford has decided to call it a day, having notched up 78 years of service spread across three clubs. He has just retired as Chairman of the UK War Risks Club and as a Director of the UK Defence Club after meetings on April 14th and 15th. He is a former Chairman of the UK Defence and UK P&I Club boards and, from 1987 to 1990, presided over all three organisations.

He was presented with a sterling silver quaich, made in Glasgow in 1937 at Trinity House, London on April 14th, at a reception attended by directors and managers with whom he had worked and associates in shipping, transportation and related services. The presentation was made by Hugo Wynn-Williams, Chairman of Thomas Miller.

Bob Crawford was born on 20 March 1924 and brought up in north east Scotland, where he attended Robert Gordon's College, Aberdeen. He was in the RAF from 1942-47, qualifying as a navigator and serving in South Africa and Germany.

After demobilisation, he became articled to Lewin Gregory Torr & Durnford in London, qualifying as a solicitor in 1950. He worked briefly for Thorold Brodie & Mason in Westminster before moving to Ince & Co to specialise in shipping and marine insurance work. He remained there for 22 years, becoming a partner and playing a major role in the growth of Ince's business.

He was heavily involved with major Greek, Turkish and Asian ship owners and with leading personalities in international shipping, including Aristotle Onassis, C Y Tung and Boris Vlasov. His high profile cases included the Seawise University, formerly the Queen Elizabeth, destroyed by fire in Hong Kong; and the seizure of the Onassis whaling fleet by the Peruvian government.

In 1974, Bob was persuaded by Boris Vlasov to leave Ince and become, initially, Group Managing Director of Shipping Industrial Holdings Ltd on Vlasov's takeover of the large shipping conglomerate. The role included the chairmanship of Silver Line Ltd, its principal ship owning company. Shortly after, Bob became President of the Vlasov group worldwide, based in Monte Carlo. He retired from active participation in 1983 but chaired the Silver Line pension fund until 18 months ago.

He held board and other appointments with Lloyds Register of Shipping (1982-2004) and was a trustee of their pension fund until 2008. Other board appointments have included the Civil Aviation Authority (1984-1993), the Port of London Authority (1985-1992) and Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (1986-1993). He was awarded a CBE in 1990 for services to Scottish aviation.

Bob was appointed a director of the UK Defence Club in 1976 and served as Chairman from 1987 to 1990. He was a Director of the UK P&I Club from 1980 to 1994 and Chairman from 1983 to1990. He contributed to the formation of Jurinflot and chaired the Russian maritime legal organisation during its ownership by the London group of P&I clubs.

He became a Director of the UK War Risks Club in 1980 and Chairman two years later, a role discharged continuously for 28 years. His watch took in two Gulf wars and the Falklands conflict. Between 1987 and 1990, therefore, Bob Crawford was Chairman of three Thomas Miller-managed clubs.

He has lately been concerned with Somali piracy issues. Last year, he took a cruise through the Gulf of Aden which meant following the Somali "corridor".

Hugo Wynn-Williams maintained that the breadth and extent of Bob's involvement in marine mutuals was almost certainly unmatched, having attended 286 board meetings across the three clubs. He had worked with Bob on a number of international cases and had greatly benefitted from his advice.

Bob Crawford has some broad comments on marine mutuals.

"During my chairmanship of the UK Club, we did not face the same regulatory and financial issues which confront today's P&I boards. I was particularly keen to stimulate real contributions from such an international and culturally diverse set of directors. This could be quite a challenge with 30 people of 15 nationalities who, between them, ran a substantial part of the world maritime fleet. However, participation certainly improved. "The Defence Club was characterised by thoroughgoing debate and discussion over claims, enhanced by the extensive personal knowledge and experience of the owner and senior executive members of the board. They have also had to deal increasingly with EU regulatory requirements.

"In my 30 years on the board, the UK War Risks Club has enjoyed a relatively smooth ride with few heavy claims, costs kept in check and returns of call. This occurred in the context of exceptional growth from 70 entered vessels at the outset to well over 800 today. I anticipate that the incidence of piracy well off the Somali coast will increase, given the sophisticated nature of some operations. We need strong sanctions from the United Nations if we are to deal properly with piracy.

"The mutual concept is something that merchant fleets should be pleased exists. Clubs face a difficult battle with the commercial market in providing an insurance product. Having dealt with the P&I clubs since I was at Ince & Co, I have found a high standard of competence and a massive emphasis on personal service."

Outside marine matters, Bob once owned three cattle breeding farms in Scotland and still shoots. His first wife Rita, a Latvian whom he married in 1947, died a few years ago. He remarried earlier this year.

Colin Wannell of BP has been elected to succeed Bob Crawford as Chairman of the UK War Risks Club.

Staff Author

Thomas Miller Group