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Boaters living in states not regularly visited by hurricanes may think they have few worries, but when it comes to making an insurance claim for a wrecked or sunk vessel, boaters far beyond the hurricane belt can learn from those affected by last year's storms.
Jim Nolan, vice president, BoatU.S. Marine Insurance Underwriting Division said, "What we found last year in Florida was not unique to the state. It makes no difference whether it's a hurricane, fast-moving summer thunderstorm, or worn mooring lines that cause a boat to wash ashore or sink."
At issue is whether your insurance company offers full salvage coverage and has the resources to safely remove either a partially damaged or completely wrecked vessel. The problem largely lies with those who have insured their boat with their homeowner'sinsurance carrier.
Boats that sink on lakes with hydroelectric power plants, for example, have to be removed as authorities don't want to risk damage to generating equipment. However, many homeowners' insurers limit or cap the funds available to complete the task. "Make sure your boat policy covers both the hull value as well as salvage costs and treats these items separately," says Nolan. "If it doesn't, a boater could end up having to take money out of his own pocket to pay salvage expenses," he adds.
Nolan also said that after last year's hurricanes many homeowners' insurance companies paid boater's claims, but once the check was cut the owner was left with the hassle of arranging salvage. "It's the owner who is ultimately responsible for its removal even if there are just pieces left. However, a good marine insurer will manage the entire process and have the resources to arrange for salvage, barge, crane and storage services and do what it takes to safely remove a boat from any location."
On the ground in Florida last fall, the BoatU.S. Catastrophe Response Team saw hundreds of such cases with non-BoatU.S. insureds. "Unfortunately, they not only lost their boat but also had the hassle of trying to find a qualified contractor," said Carroll Robertson, vice president, BoatU.S. Claims Division. "Greater problems can result if the boat washes up or sinks in a protected or sensitive area because salvors need to have additional qualifications, such as the ability to handle possible fuel spills. It's not a simple matter of hiring the first flatbed and crane you can find," she noted.
Robertson tells the story of one lightly damaged boat that ended up floating in a boat club swimming pool after a hurricane. While damages incurred during its stormy journey to thE pool only required about $500 to repair, its removal mandated a delicate crane lift, removal of overhead power lines, and other pricey precautions that added up to a $5,000 bill. "Since the
boat was insured with BoatU.S., the policy paid for repairs, all of the salvage costs and we handled the entire operation from start to finish. That's the potential value of a good marine insurer," said Robertson.
BoatU.S. Boat Owners Association of The United States is the nation's leading advocate for recreational boaters providing its 600,000 members with a wide array of consumer services including a group-rate marine insurance program that insures nearly a quarter million boats. For more information, visit http://www.BoatUS.com/Insurance or call 800-283-2883.