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Considering recent claims made, firstly it would be useful to mention that outboard motor thefts are on the increase at present – any additional precautions you can take would be appropriate now. Rumour has it that such engines are the targets of organised gangs and the goods leave the UK headed for East European countries.

Other claims lead me to raise the principle of “Utmost Good Faith” with regard to a marine insurance contract. The principle requires that a party requesting insurance is honest in supplying all relevant information to the underwriter. In the early days of marine insurance it was assumed that a ship owner knew all there was to know about a vessel and its proposed master, voyage and cargo etc. but as the underwriter knew nothing initially it was vital that the “risk” was truthfully and fully presented to the underwriter so that a realistic and sensible premium could be charged.

The principle still applies today and it is vital that not only is a proposal form completed accurately if the underwriter requests one, but that any other information material to the risk is also disclosed to the broker or underwriter. Failing this a claim could be reduced considerably or declined altogether depending on the extent of the miss-declared information.

We have also seen some strange incidents involving machinery malfunctions. One customer found that his vessel had an intermittent fault between controls and engine. Having had two engineers examine the problem and believing that the fitting of new parts had solved the problem, he continued with his trip. Unfortunately the problem was not properly corrected and on mooring in a foreign port, with the engine controls at “stop” the engines suddenly engaged and the vessel accelerated forward and collided with a large timber vessel causing about £22,000 worth of damage in total. The lady on board the foreign vessel was described as rather loud and scary and covered in tattoos – our customer was glad to leave port!

Equally odd was another incident where a customer stepped ashore from his expensive, powerful motor launch, onto a finger pontoon to moor-up, taking the mooring lines with him, only to find the engines suddenly at full throttle causing the vessel to lurch forward, rising over the pontoon and coming to rest on the pontoon striking the two vessels opposite. In this instance we believe it was the forward mooring rope that caught on the throttles as the owner walked to the bow and as the engines had been left running until the vessel was safely moored, the accident happened. Another expensive incident with three boats and a pontoon to repair!

I suppose I should be quite glad that my boat has no engine and just relies on sail, and I have managed to miss most of the boats I sail with, although one of them left a small hole at the aft end. My fault so I can’t grumble and it will be easy for me to fix at the end of the season!

D. Long - 11/10/2012

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