A MERGER deal between two North-East insurance firms has been approved by shareholders.

The members of North of England P&I Association (North) and Sunderland Marine Mutual Insurance Company Limited (SMMI) have voted in favour of the clubs' recent proposals to join forces.

A target date of February 21 has been set for the merger, which will create one of the largest marine insurance operations with a combined premium income of about £300m.. 

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Trevor Hart, chairman of Durham City-based SMMI said: "The merger combines North's international portfolio of high quality, larger tonnage with SMMI's wide spread of high-volume, small-tonnage risks and aquaculture expertise.

"Together we will offer a more diverse product range, identify and develop new sources of business income and provide greater levels of service and security to all members and policyholders of the combined operation."

On completion of the merger, SMMI will operate as a subsidiary company of North and SMMI’s chief executive, Geoff Parkinson, and directors Mr Hart and Peter Johnson will join North’s board.