Insurance cover for boats and contamination incidents

Would you be insured if your boat caused a contamination incident on the water?

  Boats at a mooring in Norfolk

The RYA is committed to promoting and advising boat owners on environmentally sustainable and responsible boating. 

From a boat owner’s perspective, it’s important to be aware of the actions that minimise your environmental impact on coastal and inland waterways, particularly when it comes to water pollution. 

What should I look out for? 

Boat owners should be aware of the consequences if their boat causes a contamination issue through a leakage of oil or diesel. 

Some marine insurance policies may not cover a claim for clean-up costs, which can run into thousands of pounds and leave the boat owner liable out of their own pocket.

Oil and fuel leakage in boat insurance claims

Will I be covered by my marine insurance policy? 

The average marine insurance policy usually excludes losses for this type of claim. However, it may have some limited exceptions as to when a claim will be accepted.

Other policies may place a condition that there needs to be damage to the boat caused by the leak or spill as part of the claim, which sometimes may not be the case. Others will exclude this type of risk entirely and offer a dedicated environmental liability policy at an added cost.

What are the limited exceptions? 

The limited exceptions to have a successful claim for this type of incident are commonly cited in marine policies. For example, when a boat with a robust maintenance regime suffers a sudden and unforeseen leak of contaminate because of a part failure.

There are conditions around whether this part is subject to a regular change programme or an annual inspection programme. A successful claim for a policyholder would rest on evidencing that the facts fit on a case-by-case basis.

boat insurance advice

Next steps…

The RYA recommend that boat owners check their policy wording carefully and if in any doubt ask your insurer or broker to clarify the position for you. Boat owners need to be aware of the risk of any such incident - any uninsured loss may give rise to costly litigation.

RYA members can benefit from additional advice on this subject and other marine related matters as part of their membership benefits

Members can learn more about boat insurance in the legal hub or contact the RYA Legal team.

Not a member? Join today.