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What You Should Know About Hull Perils

By Chris Richmond
Originally Submitted to WorkBoat Magazine

Chris Richmond, Allen Insurance and Financial

Chris Richmond

A commercial hull policy can sometimes resemble an action-packed maritime novel:  Covered perils of the sea can include men of war, pirates, letters off mart and detainments of all kings are just some of the terms you might read there. But what about when you just have a problem with your engine? This may or may not be covered.

A hull policy is a named peril policy, meaning unless something is a stated peril− written right there in the policy − it is not covered. That said, a hull policy still provides rather broad coverage. There are always exclusions; for instance, wear and tear is not a covered cause of loss. But you should know about  two coverages found in a hull policy: Latent Defect and Negligence of Repairers.

Latent Defect is defined as a flaw in material existing at the time of the building of the vessel or machinery not discoverable by ordinary methods of testing. While the expense of replacing the broken part is excluded, the ensuing damage can be covered.

Negligence of Repairers is another peril which can provide important coverage. Should you have a repair to your vessel’s engine – and it fails – then you may have coverage. Case in point: An insured had a high-pressure fuel line fail repeatedly on his engine. An investigation determined that during a previous repair job, the repairer had not installed the proper number of clamps as stated by the manufacturer. This produced excessive vibration and eventually stress fractures. The client was relieved two-fold. First that he had found out why he was repeatedly blowing fuel lines, and also that he now had a covered cause of loss. Aside from the repair being covered, he could also claim loss of use from the cancelled charters that he suffered.

Claims can come in all different sizes and varieties. Don’t be afraid to give your agent a call to discuss what is going on with your vessel. While it may initially appear that there is no coverage, some investigation into the root of the problem can often yield positive results.

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Commercial Hull Policy Coverage & Equipment On and Off Your Vessel

By Chris Richmond
Originally Submitted to WorkBoat Magazine

Your commercial hull policy provides coverage for more than just your hull. A policy may extend coverage to the “hull, tackle, apparel, engines, boilers, machinery, appurtenances, equipment, stores, boats and furniture.”

But what happens when you have a claim involving any one of these items? If the claim is covered, then you will first have to pay the deductible. Depending on the amount of hull coverage you have, this can be rather sizable and may well exceed the value of what was damaged. Let’s look at some ways to help improve your coverage

Do you have a tender? Have it listed separately on the policy with its own hull limit and a smaller deductible. The liability from your vessel still extends to the small boat but when the tender has its own hull value listed, you can have a much more manageable deductible. And don’t forget to tell your insurance agent when you buy a new outboard for the tender. This can greatly increase its value and quickly exceed the value for which you have insured the tender.

Do you store items ashore during the off season? Some policies will reduce the coverage on these items while off the boat by covering only claims based on fire. Be aware: Should an item be stolen then your boat’s policy will not react.

Have you installed special equipment on your vessel to perform specific work? They can be scheduled on your policy with a stated value along with an appropriate deductible.

Do you operate equipment overboard? Good luck getting that added to your commercial hull policy. If you have ROV units stored on board your boat you may be able have them scheduled on your hull policy but as soon as they go overboard coverage would cease. Obtaining a stand-alone policy specifically written to cover your ROVs is the proper way to provide coverage. This policy will react to claims from incidents both on the boat as well as in the water.

Take a moment to look at your boat and the equipment that you have on board, then give your insurance agent a call and discuss the current limits you for the vessel and everything on it, especially what can be stored (or is stored) on land. You will be happy you did should you need to file a claim.

Chris Richmond, AAI, CMIP
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Maintenance, Cure and Wages – and Your Insurance

By Chris Richmond
Originally Submitted to WorkBoat Magazine

Chris Richmond, Allen Insurance and Financial

Chris Richmond

Commonly referred to as The Jones Act, coverages under the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 provide broad benefits for your crew. It is always important to review what your crew are entitled to and what insurance you should have for this.

Under the MMA of 1920 if a crewmember is injured or falls ill while in service to the ship then they are eligible for maintenance, cure and wages.

Maintenance is lodging and meals should an injured crewmember have to find alternative accommodations due to the claim; the cure is doctor’s visits and medical treatment until maximum medical cure has been reached and wages are the pay the affected crewmember would have earned had they not been laid up. Your protection and indemnity policy will respond to this if you have crew coverage.

Be sure to keep your crew count accurate as you can. If you have more crew on board than you have listed on your insurance policy,  you may suffer a co-insurance penalty. Insurance companies generally don’t like to cover something (or someone) who isn’t specifically written in a policy.

It is also important to remember that maintenance, cure and wage claims are no-fault. This means a crew member only has to establish that  they were in service to the ship at the time of their injury or illness and then these benefits are available to them.

Though this can vary, the standard to establish seaman status as a crewmember is generally seen as spending 33% of one’s time in service to the ship.

I always tell my clients to let an adjustor determine whether or not a claim is valid. If you know of an incident or a crew member reports one, turn in the claim and let the insurance company decide. Otherwise, you may face suit under the Jones Act.

The Jones Act allows for crewmembers to sue the vessel for damages resulting from injuries they may have suffered aboard the vessel either because of negligence or unseaworthiness. Should the claim be successful the crewmember would be entitled to future lost wages as well as damages for pain and suffering. Again, the crewmember must establish seaman status − but again, let the insurance adjuster make that call.

You P&I insurance can be one of your vessel’s larger expenses but a claim that is not handled properly can cost you much more. Don’t be afraid to let your agent know what is happening on board involving injuries. You’re paying for your insurance to cover you when you need it in cases like these.

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Start With the Exclusions

Chris Richmond, Allen Insurance and Financial

Chris Richmond

By Chris Richmond
Originally Submitted to WorkBoat Magazine

When a boatyard or builder makes an investment in purchasing a building most likely they will want to have the structure insured. But just because you purchase property coverage does not mean that your building is insured for all potential hazards. Two big exclusions on property insurance forms are flood and earth movement, both of which can pose a significant threat to your building.

First things first.  (This is a long sentence, but an important one.) The insurance definition of a flood is a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or two or more properties from overflow of inland or tidal waters, rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source, mudflow, collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents or water exceeding anticipate cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined as above.

If you have a bank loan on your property, most likely the bank will require you to have this flood coverage for at least the amount that is on the loan.  Coverage can be provided through The National Flood Insurance Program. Your premium will vary depending on what flood zone the property is in.

While people talk about earthquake coverage, in the insurance world it actually is referred to as “Earth Movement,” with earthquake being just one of many categories. Besides earthquakes being excluded the Earth Movement list includes landslides, man-made mines, earth sinking and volcanic eruption. Depending on your location, coverage for this can be either bought back from your carrier or as a stand-alone coverage through a specialty broker.

Sage advice when looking at your insurance policies: Start with the exclusions. While it is important to know what you are covered for, it is equally important to know what your policy does not cover. Don’t think that just because you have an insurance policy that everything is covered. Have a conversation with your agent about your coverages to make sure you have what you need.

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Claims: Always Call Your Agent

Chris Richmond, Allen Insurance and Financial

Chris Richmond

By Chris Richmond
Originally Submitted to WorkBoat Magazine

Insurance can often be one of your business’s larger expenses and one that you hope to rarely use. But please don’t think that making a call to your agent to report a claim is going to adversely affect your policy’s premium. Even if you think that the incident is minor and not worth reporting, a quick call your agent can save you from some major hassles down the road. Here are a few things to remember to keep a claim hassle-free.

First and foremost, make the call and report the claim to your agent. Alerting your agent does not reflect on you negatively. In fact, insurance adjustors appreciate this kind of reporting because it gives them a baseline right at the time of the claim. Recording the essential facts in a timely fashion helps greatly in case something develops from the incident six months down the road. And, as a bonus you, get to touch base with your agent. This is always a good thing.

Second, should the claim involve damage to property, keep the damaged items secure so they will not suffer any further damage. Should you have to make emergency repairs, document the damage first so an adjustor can see it. You don’t want the damage to get worse due to your inattention.

Third, save receipts. Once repairs start on your vessel or property, the bills will accumulate. Keep all associated receipts and send them to your agent who will then forward them to the adjustor. If you are doing repairs yourself, keep track of your own time.

Were there witnesses to the accident? Record their names and contact information. See if anyone took photos or video with their cell phone. Is there a security camera which could have captured the event? All of these sources of information can help you with your claim.

Finally, we are back to where we started. Report your claim. All too often I hear from a client that something happened six or eight weeks ago. The time to call your agent is right after the incident occurs so the adjustors can start their investigation and document all the facts – with your assistance. Strike while the iron is hot and get all the facts down while they are fresh in your mind, and in the mind of any witnesses. You will be happy you did.

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Properly Insuring Your Employees in Case of Injury

Chris Richmond, Allen Insurance and Financial

Chris Richmond

By Chris Richmond
Originally Submitted to WorkBoat Magazine

Shipyards and marine related business are comprised of a wide variety of jobs and with this variety comes different types of injury coverage for the people who work there. Just because you believe your employees are properly covered does not mean they are. Take a moment to review these three areas of injury coverage.

Jones Act
Officially called “The Merchant Marine Act of 1920,” this covers employees who are considered crew members on your vessels. Seamen employed on vessels traveling from U.S. port to U.S. port are entitled to coverage under the Jones Act, with the coverage provided under a vessel’s Protection and Indemnity policy. Crew are covered for injury and illness while ‘in service to the ship’ through the Maintenance and Cure portion of the coverage. Crew are also entitled to sue the ship or ship owner for unseaworthy or negligent conditions which they believe caused their injury. To be considered a crew member, the employee must spend roughly a third of their time at work in service to the ship.

USL&H
 Employees who are working around docks, wharves or servicing a vessel will fall under the U.S. Longshore and Harbor Workers Act. These are your stevedores, repair crew, crane operators or similar employee who service, load or go on and off vessels but are not considered crew members. The two determining factors for USL&H are Situs and Status, both of which need to be met in order to be eligible for this coverage. To meet the Situs test, an injury must have occurred while working on or near navigable waters. The Status test is met by the work being done. Exclusions include office workers, aquaculture and boat builders who build recreational vessels less than 65 feet in length. Even if you have a boat yard where you feel you would never have a USL&H risk, it is very inexpensive to have this added to your state workers compensation policy on an ‘if any’ basis. This way you have at least some defense covered should a USL&H claim be filed against you.

State workers compensation
 Your office staff and other employees are covered under your state workers compensation act. Keep in mind that if you have employees who work in other states besides the one where your business is located then you need to list these as well. State workers compensation acts are no-fault laws which means they cover a claim as long as the employee’s accident happened within the scope of their employment.

This is a very quick explanation of a very important insurance coverage. Take the time to review your operation and exposure with your agent to help you get the coverage you need.

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Learning About Special Terms and Conditions on a Marine Insurance Policy

Chris Richmond, Allen Insurance and Financial

Chris Richmond

By Chris Richmond
Originally Submitted to WorkBoat Magazine

Your commercial vessel’s insurance policy actually consists of two separate policies: Your hull policy and your protection and indemnity policy. While the actual hull and P&I policies typically consist of accepted insurance forms, insurance underwriters always add additional terms and conditions. These are worth noting because they can significantly affect your policy.

Look at the final pages of your policy to see these special terms and conditions. While these vary by insurance company, here are a few to keep an eye out for:

  • Commercial vessel use warranty: This stipulates that there is only coverage for what has been declared on the policy for the vessel’s commercial usage. If you are operating as a passenger vessel but decide to do some commercial fishing , be sure to notify your agent as your commercial use warranty needs to be amended.
  • Lay up warranty: If you do not operate your vessel year-round, you can get a break on the premium by adding a lay up warranty. But if you operate your vessel during this period no coverage will apply should you need it. Lay up warranty differs slightly from company to company but basically your boat needs to be in a state of decommission and not used for any purpose during the lay up period.
  • Diving warranty: Do your operations sometimes involve commercial diving? This is excluded from your policy. Typically all overboard activities are excluded but some can be bought back (such as swimming or snorkeling). Diving requires a special policy.
  • Gear and cargo exclusion: Some insurance companies will exclude fishing gear that is not permanently installed on your vessel (and your catch also will be excluded from coverage). Other cargo you are transporting may also not be covered. Cargo can often be added back on but if you are storing the cargo on shore before getting underway you will need additional coverage for that.
  • Crew warranty: If you have crew covered on your policy, there will be a number stating how many crew members the policy is providing coverage for. Should you have more crew on board and you have not reported the increase to your insurance company, then the policy may only respond proportionally to the number of crew your policy states by the number of crew you have on board at the time of the claim.

Just as commercial vessels vary, a commercial hull and P&I policy is not a one-size-fits-all. Have a conversation with your agent about your operations and vessel usage to ensure that your insurance will be there when you need it.

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Who Owns the Ship or the Shipyard? The Importance of a Named Insured

By Chris Richmond
Originally Submitted to WorkBoat Magazine / December 2020

Chris Richmond, Allen Insurance and Financial

This is about when what seems like a small thing can be a very big thing: Who actually owns the yard, building, ship, truck, tool box or other thing that needs insurance?

We’re talking about something called “insurable interest.” In basic terms, this means the named owner. The real owner is identified as the named insured on an insurance policy. We have seen times when there is an owner in the name of one company but another company (an operations company) actually runs the business.

Very often, the owner of both entities is one and the same. Also very often, that same business owner doesn’t think to identify all of the entities he or she has set up. This will be a serious problem when a claim arises. If the actual legal owner of the property is other than what’s shown on an insurance policy, the policy may not respond because there is no “insurable interest” for the person or entity on the policy. In cases like these, it is most likely the claim will be denied.

In other words, if a company or entity is not named on an insurance policy, it is highly  likely there is no coverage.

There was a claim at a local yard where the named insured on the insurance policy was the operating company but not the actual owner of the property. The bank holding the mortgage had accepted proof of insurance that showed the wrong name as the property owner.

There was a devastating fire. When the insurance company’s claims adjuster arrived, he asked who the owner was. When the company owner named the actual company that owned the property, the claims adjuster explained that he didn’t see that entity named anywhere on the insurance policy. Technically, both the owner and the bank were out of luck. After some very heavy negotiations, which included pointing out that the owners of both entities were one and the same, the insurer relented and agreed to pay the claim. This case is an exception to the rule.

When doing an insurance review, the first topic we discuss is the named insured – and we ask if there are any other entities operating that are not listed. As always, the time to have this discussion is before there is a claim as afterwards it is often too late.

The same goes for vessels. Many vessel owners have each vessel in a separate company. Send the vessel’s certificate of documentation to your insurance agent to make sure the actual owner of the vessel is listed correctly on the insurance policy.

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Getting Back to Work After COVID-19

By Chris Richmond
Originally submitted to WorkBoat Magazine / November 2020

Chris Richmond, Allen Insurance and Financial

When the pandemic hit, you were probably looking for ways to save money as the economy ground to a halt. Changes in your insurance policy can reflect a lower premium, but can also affect your coverage. As you start to get back in to business, take a look at any changes you may have made to your insurance policy and see if you need to undo them.

As the pandemic hit, some of the first calls I received from clients were requests to remove navigation from their commercial vessels. Their business slowed down and there was no work for the boats, so this was an obvious way to see some immediate relief in their insurance premium. As the economy starts back up again and you see demand and work for your vessels, make sure to have lay up removed from your policy. While the boat is insured at the dock, during lay up the moment you drop the lines coverage ceases unless you have added navigation back to the policy.

Business owners also sought savings on their insurance bill by reducing the annual projected payroll for their workers compensation or USL&H. As renewals came along during the economic downturn, business reduced their workforce and renewals in WC and USL&H reflected this. As business picks up again and workers who had been laid off are brought back, your annual projected payroll will increase. You can wait until the audit at the end of the policy term and get hit with a large additional premium or you can contact your agent and report the increase in payroll. This will result in spreading out the increase in premium over the remaining term of your policy.

Finally, if you have been shut down for a period of time and equipment has been idle, be sure to do your due diligence and make sure all works as it should. Routine maintenance may have been missed or deferred. Inspection dates could have been missed for safety equipment or log books could be out of date for safety review. Take the time to clean up these area before a fine comes your way.

Starting business back up means getting both customers and your employees back in the door − but don’t forget to contact your insurance agent as well. He or she should always be happy to hear from you and help keep your policy up to date.

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Pollution Liability: More Than Just the Clean Up

By Chris Richmond
Originally submitted to WorkBoat Magazine / October 2020

Chris Richmond, Allen Insurance and Financial

Most commercial hull policies have a pollution exclusion clause attached. You can often get a buy back endorsement added but the coverages on this vary from company to company and often the clause will not cover what you really need to. What you really need is a stand-alone pollution policy.

A pollution policy not only covers spills related to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 but also claims brought under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). Remember, pollution is not only petroleum spills; they can also be spills or discharge of other hazardous materials stored or transported on your vessel. You can have just as much problem with a chemical spill as an oil spill.

And don’t think that that barge you tow (the one without an engine or bunker fuel) is safe from pollution claims. What if you have a fuel storage container on deck that somehow ends up overboard? You now have a pollution claim. Should your tow come off and the barge has a collision or allusion − causing a fuel spill − you now have a pollution claim.

After the spill is contained and cleaned up, who is going to pay for your defense costs? As you are well aware, this is a part of liability policies and are key as potential litigation claims can drag on and defense costs mount. Whether or not you are found liable, your defense costs can add up quickly. Having these covered by your insurance policy is very important.

And what if your spill was a total accident? Will that stop any fines or penalties imposed upon you but state or federal authorities? Don’t count on it. A pollution policy can provide coverage for fines which may be imposed.

The only thing worse than the actual spill is the image on television or social media of oil-coated birds on the beach. Allowing the public to know that you are doing your best to take care of the situation can go a long way.

While you may never have to use your pollution policy, the coverage it provides for that one time will pay off in the long run. A stand-alone pollution policy is an important part of your vessel’s coverage and in some instances is required by the Coast Guard’s Certificate of Financial Reasonability (COFR) program. Have a talk with your insurance agent to find out more.