What is general average loss in marine insurance?

October 10, 2023

Understanding General Average Loss

General Average Loss is a concept that plays an important role in marine insurance. It refers to a situation where, during a maritime voyage, a deliberate sacrifice or extraordinary expense is incurred to protect the vessel, its cargo, or the lives of those involved in the voyage. In such cases, the principle of general average is invoked to share the financial burden among all parties with a financial interest in the voyage, including shipowners, cargo owners, and insurers.

The concept of general average dates back centuries and is an integral part of maritime commerce. Its purpose is to ensure that all parties involved in a voyage share the losses and expenses incurred for the common good. General average losses can arise from a variety of situations, such as the jettisoning of cargo to lighten a vessel in distress, the cost of towing a disabled vessel, or the cost of extinguishing a fire on board.

Principle of General Average

The principle of general average is based on the understanding that when a sacrifice or extraordinary expense is made to save the voyage, it benefits all parties involved. Therefore, the financial burden should be shared proportionately among those who have an interest in the voyage. This principle is enshrined in the York-Antwerp Rules, which provide a uniform framework for the determination and settlement of general average contributions.

In order to invoke the principle of general average, three essential conditions must be met. First, there must be a deliberate sacrifice or extraordinary expense incurred for the common safety of the adventure. Second, the sacrifice or expenditure must be voluntary and made with the intention of preserving the voyage as a whole. Finally, there must be a successful outcome, meaning that the sacrifice or expenditure has achieved its purpose of protecting the voyage.

Calculating General Average Contributions

Determining contributions for general average losses can be a complex process. The York-Antwerp Rules provide guidance on the allocation of expenses and the apportionment of contributions among the parties involved. The process typically involves a general average adjuster who assesses the value of the sacrificed property, the related expenses, and the proportional contributions of each party.

The general average adjuster considers various factors in the calculation, including the value of the vessel, the value of the cargo, and the extent to which each party benefited from the sacrifice or expense. The adjuster also considers any insurance coverage and the terms of the insurance policy. Final settlements are determined based on these assessments and are typically borne by the cargo owners, vessel owners, and their respective insurers.

Importance of marine insurance in general average claims

Marine insurance plays a critical role in general average loss situations. It provides financial protection to the parties involved by covering the potential liabilities arising from a general average event. Marine insurance policies typically include general average contributions, which ensure that the insured parties are compensated for their proportionate share of the losses incurred.

For cargo owners, marine insurance provides protection against the risk of loss or damage to their goods while in transit. In the event of a general average situation, the insurance policy would cover the cargo owner’s contribution, thereby mitigating his financial exposure. Similarly, shipowners’ insurance policies provide coverage for their proportionate share of the general average loss, thereby protecting their financial interests.


General average is a fundamental concept in marine insurance that ensures an equitable distribution of financial burdens among the parties involved in a maritime voyage. It recognizes that sacrifices and extraordinary expenses made for the common safety of the adventure benefit all parties and should be shared proportionately. The principle of general average, based on the York-Antwerp Rules, provides a framework for calculating and settling these contributions.

Marine insurance plays a vital role in mitigating the financial impact of general average losses. It provides protection to the insured parties, including cargo owners and shipowners, by compensating them for their proportionate share of the expenses incurred. Understanding the principles and calculations involved in general average claims is essential for all stakeholders in the maritime industry to successfully navigate this complex aspect of marine insurance.


What is general average loss in marine insurance?

General average loss refers to a principle in marine insurance where the costs incurred during a maritime voyage are shared among the shipowner, cargo owners, and other parties involved in the voyage. It is a way to distribute the financial burden when certain extraordinary expenses or sacrifices are made to protect the common interests of the voyage.

What types of expenses are considered under general average loss?

Various expenses can be considered under general average loss, including costs incurred for emergency repairs to the ship, extinguishing fires on board, removing cargo to prevent further damage, and providing assistance to other vessels in distress. These expenses are typically deemed necessary to safeguard the voyage and its cargo.

How is general average loss apportioned among the parties involved?

The apportionment of general average loss is determined based on the value of the individual interests involved in the voyage. The values of the ship, cargo, and freight are taken into account, and each party’s contribution is calculated proportionally. The principle is usually outlined in a contract or agreement, such as the York-Antwerp Rules, which provide guidelines for the distribution of general average.

What happens if a party refuses to contribute to the general average loss?

If a party refuses to contribute to the general average loss, they may be subject to legal action. The principle of general average is widely recognized in maritime law, and parties are expected to fulfill their obligations. Non-contributing parties may face legal consequences and could be held liable for their share of the general average loss, including potential legal expenses.

Is general average loss covered by marine insurance policies?

Yes, marine insurance policies often include coverage for general average loss. The insurance policy typically specifies the terms and conditions under which general average losses are covered. It is essential for shipowners and cargo owners to review their insurance policies carefully to understand the extent of coverage provided for general average situations.