วันอังคารที่ 14 กรกฎาคม พ.ศ. 2552

Boat theft – another side to the GFC

The global financial crisis has certainly hit the boating industry hard, but sadly there’s another side to the GFC and in this case I’m referring to theft, theft of boats and theft of equipment from boats.

A serving police officer once described to me what he felt was the difference between honest and dishonest people – 'Respect,' he said, 'dishonest people have no respect for your rights or your property.'

Sadly, that seems to be the case at present with a reported ‘spike’ in nautical thievery.

Trailer boat theft and the stealing of valuable equipment from moored vessels has always been a problem, but it seems that tough times lead to an increase in this insidious past time.

And, would you believe, stealing from moored vessels increases during school holidays?


Do you know what your ‘little Johnny’ was up to during his school holidays?

Of course, stealing boats and stealing from boats is something all honest people pay for by way of increased insurance premiums.

In Part II of ‘Boat Theft – another side to the GFC’ I speak to a number of key insurance people and learn just how much these ‘low lifes’ cost us by way of increased premiums.

Needless to say, payouts by insurance companies are highest when it comes to complete trailer boats stolen, but equipment stolen from moored or berthed vessels is becoming more expensive, with GPS plotters, fish founders, ‘sounders, small outboard engines, even tenders increasingly becoming targets.

The popular Data Dot technology, I’m told, does tend to deter professional thieves looking to on-sell a boat or equipment for a quick profit.

However, opportunistic or amateur thieves usually would not even know what Data Dot is.

For the uninitiated, Data Dot is a clever system whereby thousands of tiny dots laser etched with a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) or PIN (Personal Identification Number) that can be read by police via a unique magnifier to prove ownership.

Several motor vehicle manufacturers ‘spray’ Data Dot on their vehicles and a number of outboard engine and motorcycle producers follow suit.

Nevertheless, as much as it helps there’s really no absolute way to deter thieves if you vessel is in any way left unattended.

If you trailer boat is left outside your home, adorn it with all the chains and padlocks you desire, it won’t stop a determined thief.

Likewise, thieves can quickly learn which boats on swing moorings are berthed at marinas are left unattended for lengthy periods.

I was reminded of a tale I picked up in the US some years ago, that of a thief serving time in gaol for carrying out his ‘trade.’

He explained that he always targeted a well-known and common brand (rare or unusual boats stand out, he said).

His method of operation was to stroll casually around marinas, select a ‘likely vessel’ and look for one with an owner on board.

Owner on board?

Yep, here’s how he worked.

'I’d pretend to the owner that I was very impressed with his vessel and knew that boat owners loved to talk about their pride and joy', he said.

'After a few minutes conversation I knew what engines he had, what electronics were on board, knew his name and that he lives three states away and came to his boat every second weekend.

'That was it, I had my next target.'

One week later, that ‘gentleman’ (and I use the word loosely!) arrived at the marina on the very weekend he had already determined the owner would be absent, checked in at the marina office, told them that Mr ……… (he already had his name, remember?) had requested some work on his boat.

Marine staff escorted him to the boat, helped him untie the lines and bid farewell as he motored off into the distance.

How easy was that?

Despite that example of one very smart thief in action, security is pretty good at most commercial marinas.

I’m aware of a couple of incidents in Australia similar to the US example, but by far the vast majority of insurance claims relate to stolen trailer boats and stolen marine equipment rather than big vessels.

Most insurance companies give bonuses on premiums where the insured vessels are berthed at a recognised marina.

Those on semi-deserted swing moorings are likely to be paying higher premiums.

Apart from keeping your trailer boat out of sight, or even better, in a locked garage, there’s not a lot that can be done to deter thieves.

Be particularly aware if you’re advertising your boat for sale; thieves often scour the classified looking for suitable craft to ‘pinch.’

A standard method is to contact the owner of an advertised boat, obtain all its details, and determine if it is good value to steal.

The thief, of course, makes an appointment to inspect the boat, but is a ‘no show’.

That’s the least pf his worries, he now knows the location of a trailer boat worthy of his ‘talents’ and within a few days of the advertisement being placed that boat has been ‘nicked.’

Next week, we’ll endeavour to look into various ways and means to help you protect your investment and we’ll talk to the people in the ‘front line’ battling thievery every day, the insurers who have to ‘cop it’ whenever thieves strike.

วันศุกร์ที่ 10 กรกฎาคม พ.ศ. 2552

Protect your boat before the storm arrives

No boat owner can forget the aftermath of Hurricane Frances.

The slow-moving tropical storm made landfall on the Treasure Coast as a Category 2 hurricane on Sept. 3, 2004.

Winds of 100-110 mph lashed the region for hours. Those shredding winds generated storm surges and severe erosion while flooding rains pounded the area.

Left in her wake were thousands of destroyed and sunken boats, including scores piled in wreckage at Fort Pierce City Marina.

Unfortunately for many boat owners and marina officials, photos of the devastation there became the iconic image of Frances’ fury.

Since that costly year of nine hurricanes, including four that swept over parts of Florida, the threat of a hurricane’s serious impact to the Treasure Cost boating community has been a stark reality.

As the suspiciously quiet Hurricane Season 2009 nears its active months, here are a few tips for boaters to protect their property — and in some cases, their livelihood — from the worst that Mother Nature has to offer.

Have a Plan

Boats are damaged by a combination of factors created by hurricanes — wind, waves, surge and rainfall.

First, protect a vessel months before the first tropical wave shows up.

Find the best location to protect your vessel and begin preparations. Also, have an alternate spot just in case an unforeseen problem occurs.

On the Hard

In-water vessel owners should consider hauling their boat out prior to a severe storm’s arrival.

Many Treasure Coast marinas and boat yards provide the service and have areas where boats can be securely anchored.

Facilities like River Forest Yachting Center on the St. Lucie Canal in Stuart offer a Hurricane Club membership, which guarantees a reserved space during hurricanes and preferential treatment over non-members despite paying “non-hurricane” rates for haul out, jack stands and blocking.

However, membership does not make a boater exempt of responsibility. For example, the St. Lucie Locks which River Forest is west of — closes when wind speeds reach 30 mph.

Also, in peak, high traffic conditions very close to the storm’s arrival, even members cannot be serviced ahead of other waiting boats.

วันพุธที่ 1 กรกฎาคม พ.ศ. 2552

July 4th liability insurance issues for Los Angeles home and boat owners

July 4th presents serious liability insurance issues for Los Angeles home and boat owners. Planning a July 4th celebration near Los Angeles? Here are many reasons it would be smartest to take your guests to see one of the many professional fireworks shows in Los Angeles County.

You may be assigned at least a percentage of the liability for any injuries or other damages that take place on or near your property as a result of your July 4th festivities. You may be held financially accountable.

This is absolutely true if you own a dog or if your property has a swimming pool. Less obvious is your liability risk for July 4th fireworks that your guests let off on or near your property. If it is your property, then it is your responsibility to make sure all activities are done safely and legally. Each individual municipality in Los Angeles County and in the surrounding counties has its own regulations on individually let fireworks. Make sure any fireworks on or around your property are legal. Use extreme caution even if individual fireworks are legal in your municipality. Los Angeles is very dry, and fire danger is extreme.

If using fireworks near Los Angeles:
1) Make sure the fireworks are legal in your municipality.
2) Use extreme caution to protect lives.
3) Get liability insurance.
Contact your insurer and make certain you are covered for any injuries or other damage fireworks might cause.

If you serve alcohol or other drugs and your guests get in a car accident, fight, speed contest, or other dangerous incident at or after leaving your July 4th party, then you may be assigned at least a percentage of the liability for any injuries or other damages that result. You may be held financially accountable. This is especially true if you serve alcohol or other drugs to minors under the legal California drinking age of twenty one.

"If it's your boat, then it's your responsibility."

July 4th is one of the busiest days on Lake Havasu and other waterways near Los Angeles. Crowded conditions are dangerous, especially for water skiers. Just like you hear it in the California Department of Boating and Waterways commercials, "If it's your boat, then it's your responsibility." What you may not realize is, they mean it. It is your legal responsibility to make certain that everyone on and around your boat is safe. You have liability for any injuries or other damage that happen as a direct result of anyone's use of your boat. You will be held financially accountable. Also, in California driving a boat while intoxicated is considered "Driving Under the Influence" (DUI) just like driving a car while intoxicated. Don't do it.

Have a safe and sane 4th of July!