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Boaters with no or limited insurance could face crippling costs warns RCR

River Canal Rescue is reminding boat owners if they cruise without insurance or opt for basic third-party liability cover, they could face crippling costs if a major incident occurs.

RCR is authorised to handle claims for most of the UK’s leading boat insurers and in 2016, 86% of insurance claims involving sinking, damaged or lost props, rudder and steering issues were handled by its specialist claims management service Incident Care. A typical claim for immediate assistance, rather than long term repair, is £900-£1200.

By the end of July this year, major incident call-outs to insured and non-insured boaters to attend submerged, partially sunken or grounded craft and salvage work had reached 136.

RCR managing director, Stephanie Horton, comments: “We frequently meet people who did not realise the implications of only insuring third-party or who have no cover at all. Sadly they can end up facing huge bills. This is why it’s so important to have insurance and know your cover limitations and what’s expected of you if something happens.

“Third-party means if you hit another boat, cause damage to someone else’s property or injure someone, the insurer will only cover the cost of the claim against you.  While the majority of third-party policies automatically include the raising, attempted raising, removing or destroying the wreck of your boat as standard, not all do. Some exclude removal, salvage and disposal costs unless they’re pre-agreed.

“And a third-party policy will only meet these costs if the vessel’s causing an obstruction to navigation or potential damage to a third-party property. When it comes to additional cover, some include personal accident and medical expenses, but don’t take this for granted.  Sinking and under-water damage are the biggest risks on the inland waterways and prudent boaters should ensure they are covered for these perils. If you want peace of mind, an ‘all risks’ policy is the safer option.”

When it comes to paying recovery costs, insurers will only do this once the cause of the sinking is identified. Stephanie explains: “Insurers will want a clear understanding of what happened in order to assess the claim and decide whether to accept or reject it. If a sinking is due to poor winterisation, a failed bilge pump or vandalism, for example, the claim may be rejected unless there’s clear evidence the incident could not have been prevented.

“Similarly, if you haven’t checked your vessel when the river or canal’s in flood, it could be rejected due to a ‘failure of duty of care’.

She continued: “Insurers expect you to avoid taking any unnecessary risks and to maintain your vessel and equipment, including batteries, bilge pumps, stern tubes, running gear and exhausts.  Those who demonstrate a ‘duty of care’ are far more likely to have their claims paid.”

Stephanie advises boaters taking out cover to quiz insurers before they buy: “Check the policy meets your exact needs and ask about exclusions and how a potential claim will be handled. Is there a 24/7 claims hotline, are their approved inland waterway repairers and if so, who and where are they?  How a claim is handled should take equal priority with the cost and cover options.”