The average coverage ratio of Dutch pension funds increased by 3 percentage points in February due to improving equity markets and increasing interest rates, according to consultancies.Aon Hewitt and Mercer, employing slightly different methods, both concluded that funding increased over the period (to 106% and 107%, respectively).Aon Hewitt noted that European equities returned 7% last month following the ECB’s announcement of its government-bond purchasing programme.Both consultancies estimated that Dutch schemes’ global equity allocations returned 6% over the period, while the slight increase in market rates led a marginal loss for fixed income holdings. According to Aon Hewitt, the average Dutch scheme’s investment portfolio returned 2% over the month of February.Since 1 January, Dutch coverage ratios have been calculated using the current interest rate with the application of the ultimate forward rate.In addition, pension funds also must use the 12-month average of their funding rate as a “policy coverage ratio”, which is now the criterion for indexation and rights cuts.According to Aon Hewitt, the policy coverage ratio remained stable at 109% in February.At 110%, schemes can start granting compensation for inflation.Mercer recorded a slight drop in policy funding to 109.2%, according to Edward Krijgsman, team leader for monitoring.However, Krijgsman and Frank Driessen, COO at Aon Hewitt Retirement & Financial Management, both stressed that, if the current funding failed to improve, the policy coverage would fall over the course of the year.In other news, the Amsterdam Court of Justice has sentenced a former chief executive of the Philips Pensioenfonds and a former CFO of the scheme to five-year prison sentences for property fraud.The court verdicts came following an appeal by the Public Prosecutor against initial sentences of four and three years, handed down by the Haarlem magistrates court.Another former director of the Philips pension fund saw his initial prison sentence doubled to two years for taking bribes from a former director of property investor Bouwfonds, who received a seven-year prison sentence.The court estimated that the Philips scheme and Bouwfonds had lost €150m and €100m, respectively, due to the fraud, discovered almost 10 years ago.The Public Prosecutor pointed out that the parties had been able to claim back €141m in total to date.
Major port state regimes including Paris MoU, Tokyo MoU and the United States Coast Guard (USCG), plan to rigorously enforce the IMO’s Sulphur 2020 from March 1st, 2020.As such, ship owners and operators could face detention of ships should they continue to carry fuel that contains a sulphur content higher than 0.5 percent unless the ship has an exhaust gas cleaning system.“The International Chamber of Shipping reminds shipowners and operators of the impending ban and reiterates the fact that any ships found to be non-compliant face the prospect of detention,” the ICS said.The chamber said that enforcement agencies will no longer have to prove usage, and that showing that vessels without scrubbers have non complient fuel aboard will be enough to prove a violation. “Since the introduction of IMO 2020 January 1st, ships have been given a ‘grace period’ while the industry transitions to low-sulphur fuel. As of March 1st, this will no longer be the case. Any ship found in non-compliance faces the prospect of serious fines and even detention,” Guy Platten, Secretary-General ICS said. “The International Chamber of Shipping has been made aware that major port state inspection regimes including the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) have made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that detention of ships found to be non-compliant is both possible and legally permissible.The ICS said that based on the information provided by shipowners, the latter said they were fully compliant and ready for March 1st.To remind, the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73) adopted the MARPOL amendment to prohibit the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil on board ships in October 2018.The ban relates to fuels intended for combustion purposes, propulsion or operation on board a ship.Since the entrance into force of the IMO sulphur cap, the shipping industry has reported a relatively smooth transition to compliant fuels, despite major concerns over the availability of compliant fuels and potential issues with regard to the quality of new blends.However, it is yet pretty early to draw any conclusive analysis as the transition is yet in its early days.