By Chris Richmond
For August 2022 WorkBoat Magazine.
A very long time ago when I was captain of an old wooden sailing vessel, I was bringing the boat in to the harbor to tie up to the dock, something that I had done countless times. Except this time when I put the engine in reverse to stop forward movement the boat went ahead. Quickly losing room in the congested harbor, I tried again to engage reverse propulsion, to no avail. A wooden tour boat tied up ahead of me finally stopped my movement. There was season-ending damage.
While my vessel’s Hull and P&I policy took care of the damage claim, the Coast Guard felt that I had been derelict in duties as captain and wanted to conduct an admiralty hearing against my license. I now needed professional liability insurance coverage.
Typically used by attorneys, accountants, consultants and real estate brokers, professional liability provides coverage against claims made against professionals who have not performed up to the standards of their profession. This type of liability coverage is also available to licensed mariners. Should a claim occur, and the captain be deemed negligent, he or she could be sued in addition to the vessel.
Coverage can include defense costs (both against your license, civil legal defense as well as criminal acts defense), coverage for fines and penalties as well as a daily subsistence allowance. It is important to note that professional equipment, such as a personal GPS or similar navigational device, can also be included. Loss of income can be added to compensate for lost wages due to down time resulting from a claim.
Whether you are driving a 6 pack harbor taxi or a blue water tanker, your livelihood requires you to hold a valid USCG license. When you are involved in a claim involving your license, having professional liability coverage to fall back on can both help alleviate the headache of defending yourself and help take care of some defense costs. Have a talk with your marine insurance agent before you need this kind of protection.