Tuesday, November 20, 2007

3 stories, 1 thread

Hmmm....my Google news search came up with three very different news articles today, but as I perused them, I began to wonder how these situations are connected in some way. First off is the story of a 70' SkipperLiner that floundered along the Gulf Coast. (link to story) Basically, a brand new boat sinks because of waves hitting her broadside and the air vents are way too close to the waterline, and the bilge pumps in this brand new boat can't keep with that, and the delivery captain doesn't point the boat into the waves, and on and on....meanwhile, I assume that this boat is insured, and the underwriter is probably going to suffer a huge loss after only collecting one or two premium installments (it was a new boat, so a new policy).

Next up is a story (link to story) about a really nice little sailboat that was uninsured and ran up into some shallow water, and her owner appears to be walking away from the whole thing. Officials are contemplating fines, and even though the boat has fuel and oil onboard, the Coast Guard is quoted as saying "The case is closed...." Meanwhile, a salvor already has some time invested, now with very little hope of getting paid, and the shores of Milwaukee risk spoilage from the wreckage.

Finally, the last article (link to story) is about a company that is just finishing up removing 73 derelicts from Florida's waters, getting paid with public funds. And I wonder, how many of those derelicts were insured? Did the insurance companies pay off a claim for loss? The story indicates that most of these boats were lost as a result of 2004 & 2005 hurricanes, so HIN #s or registration numbers could possibly lead to finding the owners? I think of 73 derelict boats as the same as an oil spill from a huge tanker. Its a public hazard that was created by private interests, and the taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill for clean-up. When the oil industry has a spill, the funds to clean it up come from them and their pollution underwriters (more here). Why should recreational boats be any different?

All three stories in one day. The common thread is somewhat tortured I guess, but somewhere in all this is a theme that is destined to become more familiar as time goes on. When a boat is uninsured and worthless, who should pay to dispose of it? When a boat is insured and worthless, who should pay to dispose of it? Why do insurance companies continue to write policies for boats like that SkipperLiner, or at the very least demand some competent operation, so that those boats don't become part of the second or third story? Unlike automobiles, whose parts can be harvested from even total wrecks and therefore almost always retain some economic value, sunken & derelict boats are almost instantly worthless, and certainly not worth the effort to raise them.

Happy Thanksgiving.