Protecting your outboard

Bishop Skinner Marine share their top tips on keeping the thieves at bay…

Bishop Skinner Marine share their top tips on keeping the thieves at bay…

Did you know in January this year, on average one outboard motor was stolen a DAY according to joint insurance and police theft register

With the days getting shorter and boats spending more time off the water, we are fast approaching the time of year when owners need to be especially vigilant.

Encouragingly, boat insurance specialists, Bishop Skinner Marine, report that there has been a reduction in organised motor theft over the past 12 months.

But in 2013 outboard motor theft was among the top 10 marine insurance claims of the year and this still remains the case.

With motor values ranging between £8- £15,000, no one can afford to rest on their laurels. Opportunist thieves continue to present a significant threat, and although the police are working hard to combat organised motor crime, there is no guarantee new gangs won’t emerge stealing motors to order, often to smuggle out of the UK.

There is no one area in Britain where thefts are more common than another; this is a nationwide issue and the key is vigilance and protection for your outboard motors. Recovery rates of stolen motors are poor so prevention is definitely better than cure.

Intent thieves will think nothing of breaking into secure buildings or compounds to remove outboard motors, nor cutting the back of a boat away to remove its engine.

So what can you do to try to keep the thieves at bay?

Bishop Skinner Marine share their top tips on keeping the thieves at bay…

Get the most adequate and appropriate lock for your motor - ensure the most secure and suitable anti-theft device boat is installed and fit more than one as the more obviously secure the engine is, it is less likely a thief will try to take it. New motors will generally come with a lock fitted to it but get a second one too.

See if your local police force offers branded engine covers – some forces offer constabulary branded covers, fitted instead of the standard factory supplied cowling, that thieves would need to replace if they were going to sell it on the open market, drawing attention to themselves and arousing suspicion.

How secure is your yard or compound – with daylight hours at a premium over the autumn and winter months, check your perimeter lighting is working, and why not consider locking gates a little bit earlier than you normally would? Does your recorded CCTV cover the areas most likely to be targeted by thieves?

Security technology isn’t as expensive as you might think - motion-activated surveillance cameras (MASC) are very discrete and inexpensive to buy and install. These automatically photograph and/or record any movement. Wireless cameras have made surveillance possible in remote areas where it was not in the past.

Make your engine unique – mark it with a few things that make sure it stands out, like a postcode or a club mark etc., and take photographs of the engine with the marks visible for police/insurance Company to use as reference should the engine get stolen. The more difficult you make it for a thief to sell your engine on, the better chance you have of them not going to the effort of stealing it.

Spread the word if your motor is stolen - of course it will be impossible to stop all outboard motor theft and if you do find yourself the unfortunate victim of such a crime help others not fall foul of the same fate by making it as publically known as possible that thieves are operating locally and to increase vigilance.

Use common sense – you know will know better than most when something suspicious or out of the ordinary has occurred at your boatyard or sailing club. Don’t ignore your instincts - be observant, alert and report anything suspicious immediately to the police.

What happens if you have taken all these measures and the thieves still win?

Recovery registers reveal only a very small number of engines are ever successfully found and returned to their owners. In probably the majority of cases a theft results in an insurance claim, and on this front Bishop Skinner Marine has some further advice.

“A key exclusion on an insurance policy would be lack of security on an outboard motor. Most policies will require a secondary form of security to be fitted to the outboard motor.

“Also another clause will be that the boat owner has a note of the serial number of the outboard motor and has, in fact, passed it on to their insurer. The police will also require this information in the event of a motor theft.

“The final point to bear in mind is that you might not get a new for old settlement on the claim following the theft of your outboard. A deduction will generally be made for wear and tear so check your policy wording.”

Remember: It’s not just outboard motors that get stolen

The website currently has almost 3,000 outboard motors registered as stolen.

Outboard motors are targeted because they are designed to be detachable, so making them relatively simple to remove. They are also high value items, which are expensive to acquire legitimately but that hold a high sell-on value, making them extremely attractive to thieves. They might be bulky and heavy to move but the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to thieves being deterred from stealing them.

But outboard motors are not the only the only maritime goodies thieves are after. According to speedboats, personal watercraft (PWCs) and RIBS are the next most popular things for thieves to target, with motorboats, sailing dinghies and tenders amongst the next group of most vulnerable items. Trailers, yachts and even narrowboats have been recorded as stolen too.

The message? Never think it won’t happen to you

Follow this advice and try to make yourself as immune as possible. Conquering crime has to be a collaborative effort, so do your bit for yourself and others.

*Bishop Skinner Marine are the only insurance brokers working in partnership with the RYA providing boat and travel insurance solutions for members. RYA members can enjoy a 10% discount on boating insurance.