Seven years into what he says is a thriving boat-rental business that offers eight sail and power boats, Wickford Boat Rentals owner Dave Fetherston got a notice from his insurance carrier that he was being dropped.
“I had no damage in Hurricane Sandy because I pulled everything out of the water and put it in a warehouse,” said Fetherston, a former lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and a licensed boat captain. “I’ve never incurred a loss and never submitted a claim, yet they dropped me.
“They said, basically, they weren’t going to insure businesses like mine, just as I was coming up on my Aug. 8 renewal date,” said Fetherston. “It was a little tense. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get insurance, and if I didn’t, I’d have to shut down for the remainder of the season.”
With business up 13 percent in the past year and a schedule that runs through Columbus Day, shutting down was not an attractive option.
“We had to scramble, but my broker found me another carrier. My insurance went up 18 percent over the previous year,” said Fetherston. The company’s insurance costs had varied slightly in past years, but usually related to the number of boats in the fleet.
Even so, Fetherston decided 18 percent wasn’t as dramatic an increase as might have been, considering conversations he had with others in marine-related businesses.
“Hurricane Sandy has had a huge impact on the recreational marine industry. I’ve heard there were people in the marine industry who had their insurance canceled after they made claims,” said Fetherston. “I’ve heard, anecdotally, that some people were getting increases from 50 percent to 150 percent.
“In order to mitigate that type of huge increase in rates, I had to present a whole plan to the underwriters that had my storm plan, my requirements for people to rent boats and the availability of training for people who are not experienced, to show that I was a low-risk profile,” Fetherston said.
For others with marine-related businesses and for boat owners, the insurance situation is still swirling with uncertainty and, in many cases, increased costs.
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