Getting Marine Insurance: Don’t Make It An Afterthought!

NEWPORT一 After countless hours browsing web sites, attending boat shows, walking the docks, meeting with brokers, scheduling surveys, negotiating contingencies and securing funding, you’re ready to close on your vessel … getting insurance coverage should be a piece of cake right?

Sadly, this may not be true.

Historically, acquiring marine insurance has often been relegated to the backend of the vessel purchasing process and approval was generally considered a foregone conclusion.

If the insurance carrier required training, you’d hire a licensed captain and it would be left to the captain’s discretion to develop the training curriculum and determine the skillsets required.

Once satisfied an owner could safely operate their vessel, the captain would submit a letter to the insurance carrier attesting to the training and their approval of the owner to operate their vessel.

As one might surmise, there are a few inherent weaknesses in this training approach.

First, the subjective discretion afforded to the captain to develop the training program and assess competency.  Second, the assumption that all captains make good instructors. Predictably, this amount of subjective risk doesn’t sit well for an industry based on the principle of quantifying risk.

As a result, insurance companies are increasingly recognizing the value of nationally approved training programs like those developed under the stewardship of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators[1].

These NASBLA accredited programs are offered to the public by dozens of schools, training centers and boater programs in all 50 states. A list of training providers in your area can be found at https://www.nasbla.org/home.

So, is all this talk about training much ado about nothing?

Based on the United States Coast Guard’s 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics

  • Where instruction was known, 77 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction. Only 12 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator was known to have received a nationally approved boating safety education certificate.[2]
  • Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed, machinery failure and navigation rules violations rank as the top six primary contributing factors in accidents.[3]
  • Most prevalent Operator profile involving an accident resulting in injury or death: 36-55 yrs old, 100-500 hrs of experience, no formal boater education. [4]

The data appears clear … education, knowledge and experience are key factors to best ensure boater and passenger safety.

As someone who works almost exclusively with insurance companies, training owners to qualify for operator insurance coverage, here are a few tips I’d recommend when applying for insurance:

  • Ensure your boating experience resume is as detailed and complete as possible
  • If training is required in order to operate your vessel, ask:
    • If there a specific duration of training required?
    • Is there a checklist of training skills required?
    • Does my instructor need to have training experience?
    • Will training with an accredited training resource facilitate approval to operate my vessel?

Boat ownership opens a world of fun, adventure and social camaraderie that has been sorely lacking as of late. While your experience to acquire insurance may differ, in no way let this article deter you from boat ownership … just don’t make it an afterthought in the purchasing process!

About The Author: Jackson Willett is a USCG 200-ton Master and licensed US Powerboating instructor. He operates Newport Coast Maritime Academy, a US Powerboating training center headquartered in Newport Beach, CA and serving Southern California.

 

US Powerboating (https://www.uspowerboating.com), an affiliate of US Sailing, offers the nation’s best and most comprehensive hands-on powerboat courses. The USPB program is one of a select group of boating safety courses approved by the State of California and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. USPB instructors are not only US Coast Guard licensed captains but have also passed an intensive instructor course demonstrating not only seamanship and boat handling skills but also the ability to communicate and instruct to all levels of student proficiency.

[1] The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators is a national nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization that works to develop public policy for recreational boating safety.  NASBLA represents the recreational boating authorities of all 50 states and the U.S. territories.

[2] United States Coast Guard, 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics COMDTPUB P16754.34, p. 6

[3] United States Coast Guard, 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics COMDTPUB P16754.34, p. 20

[4] United States Coast Guard, 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics COMDTPUB P16754.34, p. 46

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