With the current COVID-19 pandemic forcing the country into lockdown, boat owners are facing the reality that, in many cases, they cannot visit their boats let alone get out on the water. Bishop Skinner Marine has been hearing from many RYA members asking how this affects their boat insurance policies ‒ do they need to amend their policy, and even whether they need to bother insuring their boat at all this year? As a pleasure craft insurance specialist and a partner with the RYA for over 30 years, Bishop Skinner Marine is well placed to provide advice on this matter.

We have received a number of enquiries from RYA members suggesting that they are considering not insuring their boat this year. Obviously, this is an individual decision and you should consider a number of factors, including the type and value of the boat, how the boat is used, where it is kept and whether you feel from a financial perspective you can afford to effectively self-insure if the boat is not in use. 

Whilst it is not a legal requirement in the UK to insure your boat, in reality it is very difficult to keep a boat or get out on the water without some sort of insurance in place. If you keep your boat in a marina, sailing club or on most other types of mooring, it will ordinarily be a requirement that you have at least arranged third party liability insurance for your boat and it will be a condition of your contract to ensure you have the minimum cover required in place. 

One issue owners of older boats may be concerned about is the difficulty in arranging a condition survey in order to renew your policy. If you are an existing Bishop Skinner Marine ‘Crystal Waters’ customer, I am pleased to confirm that it has been confirmed that we will be able to defer condition survey requirements for 12 months, subject to you being claim free for the previous 12 months.

You should also keep in mind the fact that most insurance policies are covering you for far more than simply sailing your boat. Whilst the likelihood of collisions, underwater gear claims and racing incidents are reduced, insurers are already beginning to see an increase in crime related losses and there is concern that we may see an uplift in claims such as theft of equipment and outboard motors, malicious damage and arson.

As always, it is important to ensure that your insurance policy accurately reflects how you use your boat and we would certainly recommend you review your current policy to ensure you are not paying for cover you no longer require, such as racing cover, skipper charter cover or specific trips or voyages.

Another option some boat owners are considering is whether to change their insurance policy to ‘laid up’ afloat or ashore. For some boat owners this may well be the sensible thing to do but please bear in mind this may not necessarily reduce your insurance premium.

Historically insurers are often reluctant to insure boats on a ‘laid up’ basis, especially when afloat, due to concerns around boats being left unattended, leading to a lack of maintenance which could lead to incidents such as sinking and also an increased risk of the vessel becoming a target for theft or malicious damage.

With this in mind, it is not uncommon that premiums can actually increase when a boat is laid up compared to when it is in commission. A final thing to remember is that, if you have reduced cover to a “laid up” basis, it will be your responsibility to ask your insurer to increase cover back to “in commission” when we are finally allowed to get back on the water.

As mentioned, insurers are always concerned when boats are left unattended for long periods of time and most insurance policies will include conditions relating to “keeping the boat in a seaworthy condition” and exclusions relating to “lack of maintenance” and “gradual ingress of water”. In the current lockdown, the majority of us will be unable to visit our boats for long periods and there is an obvious risk that losses may occur which would usually be preventable through regular attendance and maintenance. With this in mind, Bishop Skinner Marine is currently speaking with insurers about how they will react to these types of claims and we will try our hardest to ensure our clients are not penalised for claims that result from factors over which they had little control due to the restrictions in place.

At Bishop Skinner Marine, we appreciate what a worrying time this is for many RYA members. Whilst we are all coming to terms with the fact we will not be able to spend as much time on the water this year as we would like, it is still important that you have the correct insurance cover in place to protect your boat. We are here to provide specialist insurance advise to all members and we would love to hear from you to discuss your insurance requirements.

As proud RYA supporters for over 30 years, we offer unique benefits to members including a 10% discount on your premium. For more information, visit www.bishopskinner.com.

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Bishop Skinner Marine is a trading name of Jelf Insurance Brokers Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Not all products and services offered are regulated by the FCA (for details see marshcommercial.co.uk/info/terms). Registered in England and Wales number 0837227. Registered Office: 1 Tower Place West, London EC3R 5BU.