Our lakes and oceans are used for diverse purposes, and a variety of laws and rules govern water use, protection, conservation and sustainability. Provincial authorities, local governments and federal agencies work to ensure that water is managed and the supply is protected for use by people and the environment. When a boating accident happens, environmental contamination can occur from fuel, oil, anti-freeze, detergents, hull paint and boat debris. And as such, a boat claim can become incredibly costly if the situation is not addressed immediately.

Who governs the cleanup of water contamination from a boat accident?

Under federal jurisdiction is the Marine Insurance Act and the Canadian Shipping Act governs the use of boats.  However, there are provincial regulations related to the environment such as the Ontario and Quebec Provincial Environmental Protection Act and the Great Lakes Protection Act. It is illegal to leave any item in the great lakes, so when a boat accident occurs, it is the responsibility of the owner to remediate and remove any debris or contamination.

The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007, makes vessel owners strictly liable for the costs of removing wrecks if it’s determined that they pose a hazard to the environment, local economy and the safety of navigation of Canada’s coastlines.

The Act provides a set of standard international rules aimed at ensuring prompt and effective removal of wrecks that may have caused a hazard to safety, navigation, property, communities and the marine environment.

The role of a marine surveyor after a boating accident

Fuel, oil, and other liquid pollutants can easily create an environmental catastrophe by poisoning well water, compromising drinking water sources, creating disruption or death to plant and wildlife.

PMU partners with Crawford & Co to get involved immediately when there is any chance of environmental contamination after a boat accident. The role of the marine surveyor in this respect is to safeguard the interests of the member and/or to minimize post-incident exposure.  They triage to ensure that the proper authorities are notified as required by law, immediately assess the damage, and start to initiate the remediations of clean up and salvage.

Mark Thompson, Senior Surveyor of Crawford & Co, reports that if the Ministry of Environment gets involved, costs can escalate very quickly. He tells us of a case where a boater was the cause of the discharge of 45 gallons of diesel fuel and was charged with a $250,000 cleanup bill from the Ministry.

“Working with our key partners, PMU trusted us to assess the cause of the accident, the nature and extent of the damage, what caused the loss, and then implemented a plan to remediate before costs increased rapidly,” reports Thompson. “Our highly skilled staff includes structural specialists, marine mechanics, master mariners, navigational specialists, and boat engineers. We consistently have open communication and maintain solid relationships with the various government bodies, salvagers, and spill response providers. We work quickly, with key people to aid in the mitigation and the amount of damage.”

Crawford & Co utilizes their in-house expertise including vessel accident reconstruction in order to provide a thorough report to the insurance adjuster.

This report includes:

  • The cause and nature of damage
  • Extent of damage
  • Documentation by photos, estimates and diagrams.
  • Important timelines

The report is then sent to the adjuster for review to confirm it is an insured peril before the insurance company will issue the payment.

Accidents are often preventable, and boating accident prevention is best achieved by planning ahead:

  1. Identify risk triggers and mitigate the risk as best as possible
  2. Understand loss prevention strategies
  3. Understand your responsibilities as a boat owner and captain.
  4. Maintain and update your boat on a regular basis and use professionals as often as possible.
  5. Do a thorough safety check including checking weather forecasts before you launch your boat on a trip and continually monitor throughout your journey.

When you buy insurance with PMU, you not only get the best in class boat coverages, you can be confident that if you have a covered loss, you will have the best resources behind you to achieve a speedy claim with a fair settlement.

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