Storm Damaged Boats—Part 1

atlantic highlands marina

BoatUS estimates that 15%, or 25,000, of all registered boats in New Jersey, like this one at Atlantic Highlands Marina, were damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

It’s Christmas week and a storm front is moving through the Northeast with torrential rains and 60 mile-per-hour wind gusts, reminding me of my colleague Brett Becker’s story “Flooded Boats Can Offer Good Value.” With today’s storm and major storms like Hurricane Sandy becoming more destructive, more information seems to be needed on storm-damaged boats. I’ve written briefly on the topic before with my own “How to Get Rid of An Old Boat.”

I  contacted a marine surveyor acquaintance of mine, David Wiggin, who often ends up working for insurance companies on behalf of their clients in the aftermath of such storms. I met David years ago when I was the operations manager at a large boatyard. As a member of BoatUS’s Catastrophe response team or CAT, David has seen the worst that nature can dish out over the past twenty years. He just returned from six and a half weeks of surveying damage from Hurrican Sandy and said simply, “It was the worst damage I’ve ever seen, with thousands of boats a total loss.” Click here for a video of the BoatUS CAT Team in action after Hurricane Sandy.

Before you consider buying a storm-damaged boat, it’s worth knowing something about how insurance claims processes work after big weather events. I spoke to BoatUS’s D. Scott Croft, AVP of Public Relations, for some perspective.

“We estimate that there were over 65,000 boats total, both insured and uninsured, damaged in New York and New Jersey alone from Hurricane Sandy,” said Croft. “In a storm like this, a boat we insured may be under a pile of boats we don’t have policies for. Job one is to get all the boats out of the weeds or intersections and off to the repair yards to be evaluated. Often additional damage can happen when you’re salvaging a boat.”

BoatUS sells only marine insurance. Their CAT team of surveyors, claims administrators, and logistics, salvage and trucking people, is often involved in recovery and salvage beyond the immediate needs of their clients. For instance, they put together a salvage plan for all of the 400-plus boats damaged at Atlantic Highlands Marina in New Jersey.

“Many people don’t read the fine print on their policies and don’t understand the value of the policy until a catastrophe like this hits,” says Croft. “There is an agreed value on the policy but also a salvage value on the policy. The first is the maximum value to be paid for damage, but often there are costs associated with salvage that take away from the agreed value. We pride ourselves in handling the entire claims process, from emergency response to what happens after.”

To follow this saga of what happens to storm damaged boats, where the total loss boats go, and how you might purchase one, stay tuned for my future blogs.