Engine Cut-Off Switch Requirement a Go

Own a vessel less than 26 feet in length? Prepare to be safer out on the water.

A decision that will no doubt have far-reaching boating safety implications has finally been announced: An engine cut-off switch (ECOS) and accompanied ECOS link (ECOSL) is now a must for recreational boaters. The U.S. Coast Guard shared the new mandate, which involves vessels less than 26 feet in length and becomes effective April 1, 2021. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 spells out the mandate, which is found in Section 8316.

Any captain can tell you that the ECOSL has the potential to save lives. Attaching the vessel operator to a switch allows the engine to immediately shut off in the event that the vessel is displaced. Instead of engines churning an out of control vessel into danger, the captain with an ECOSL has the ability to right the craft and potentially prevent disaster. It’s a preventive measure; many have argued for years that it’s a vital one.

Here’s how it works: A cord fixed to an ECOS close to the helm or even affixed to the motor itself senses tension. If that tension occurs, the ECOSL released itself from the ECOS. This means the motor ceases to run, and this happens automatically. This is a vast improvement upon the other way a driver of a boat would respond to an out of control situation. And it’s so easy to operate; all it takes in most situations is for the driver of a vessel to don a lanyard that triggers an engine shutoff when overstretched.

Imagine the implications of this safety protocol: You’re driving a vessel and navigating through beautiful blue water – until something happens and the boat spirals out of control. In that quick moment, it is possible that the captain will be able to shut off the engines. It’s also possible that the panic may cause that person to freeze, or that the sudden turbulence or rogue wave has swept him/her off the helm. Such situations arise often out on the water, where conditions can morph from predictably calm to turbulent in a moment.

Now, engine shutoff in such a situation is a foregone conclusion. The ECOS and accompanying ECOS link ensure it. And that captain, who may have otherwise been scrambling to reach the steering counsel, no longer needs to worry. The craft will immediately halt its forward motion, thanks to the engine cutoff device that is now mandatory. It’s no over-exaggeration to say that it’s a potential lifesaver.

Boats included in the mandate

So who absolutely has to have (and use) that engine shutoff switch? Answer ‘yes’ to the below specifications, and you are required to not only have one on board, but to use it.

  • The vessel measures less than 26 feet long and is capable of greater than 115lbs static thrust.
  • The vessel was built January 2020 or later.
  • Yours is a recreational vessel. Only such vessels fall under the mandate. Therefore, vessels for other use are not required to feature the engine cut-off switch

Boats not included in the mandate

Your vessel is not required to have the ECOS if:

  • The primary helm is housed in an internal cabin.
  • The vessel was constructed prior to January 2020.
  • The vessel is earmarked for law enforcement. These vessels, and other vessels owned by the government, are not required to have the switch.

Should I use a shut-off switch even if I’m not required to?

  • It stands to reason that vessels manufactured before 2020 need a shutoff switch as well. The alternative is just too disastrous to ponder. Should you fall into the water while driving, the boat could maneuver its way toward you, creating a real hazard – or it could simply keep motoring away into the sunset, sans passengers.
  • Therefore, YES – you should use a shut-off switch (or some sort of engine kill mechanism) even if the law does not require you to. That kill switch has a double meaning, to be sure: by killing the engine, it maintains your own safety (and those of your passengers).

What other options are available?

  • Like so many advancements, the shut-off switch has also gone wire-free. Using a wireless engine cut-off device frees the driver from having to deal with a lanyard-type scenario, but it does offer some limitations. If the driver is somehow tossed from the helm, for example, it will not offer protection. Also, passengers must carry their own connected fobs if they wish to extend the protection to themselves.

Is anything else required in tandem with the shut-off switch?

  • Maintenance of the switch is required for the boat’s lifetime. And though it must be in good working order, it is not necessary to employ it during docking or idling. After all, the scenario it is designed to prevent involves an out of control vessel that could potentially pose a danger to passengers or others who are out on the water. Keep in mind also that though the cut-off switch can quickly resolve what could have been a dangerous situation, it is also extremely simple to reengage the switch and resume normal boating operations.

What else can I do to foster a safe boating environment aboard my vessel?

  • Take full responsibility for the safety of your passengers by adhering to Coast Guard safety recommendations. That means a life vest for everyone on board, never driving a boat while inebriated, completing boating safety courses and having your vessel inspected annually by the U.S. Coast Guard, United States Power Squadron or vessel examiners who work through your state’s boating agency.
  • Oh, and embrace the shut-off switch requirement and adhere to it religiously. This requirement has been a long time coming. Accidents caused by wayward, out of control recreational vessels will hopefully soon be a distant memory.

Find information about why ECOS and ECOSL are now safety measures that are required for many waterway vessels here. Whether you use an ECOS and ECOSL or not, be safe out there on the water. And before you ever leave the dock, contact your marine insurance advisor at W3 Insurance to make sure you’re covered.

Top Hurricane Claims of 2017: Learn From the Past and Prepare for the Future

Aerial view of Hurricane Frances

Florida boat owners: This blog contains the most valuable advice you’ll read before the 2018 hurricane season begins. Learn from the top hurricane claims of 2017. Protect your marine investment. And should history repeat itself and massive storms fill the forecast, know that you and your vessel are secure.

According to Insurance Journal, hurricane claims were so high in 2017 that many major insurers issued profit loss warnings. For boat owners, this means plenty of damages were filed. There is a silver lining in this news. Irma and Harvey taught us all a valuable lesson: We must pay attention to the scope and depth of our marine coverage. Boat owners, your marine insurance policy is a vital element of your storm preparedness plan.

Here are the top hurricane claims of 2017 and what you should learn from them:

Physical Damage Coverage

Have you elected physical damage coverage, also known as hull coverage? If not, put it as number one on your hurricane preparedness priority list.

Beware, boat owners who elect liability coverage only. High winds and flying debris from storms caused major damage to boats in 2017. If you opt to not purchase hull coverage, you may end up paying more to repair your vessel. Additionally, you will not have recompense for salvage expenses. This leads us to the next large hurricane claim category.

Salvage Claims After a Hurricane

Vessels submerged due to storm surge have to be recovered somehow, and many boat owners made a costly mistake in 2017. Though some followed the protocol outlined by their individual marine policies, others hastily signed contracts with marine salvage companies as soon as the storm dissipated. It’s understandable that they were eager to recover their boats as soon as possible, but this is a costly mistake.

Salvage service is expensive, and providers need to be approved by your insurance carrier. If salvage services are necessary and time permits, check first with your insurer.

Hurricane Haul-Out Coverage

Many policies allow for some reimbursement if you have your boat moved by professionals or haul out your vessel at a marina facility. This is called ‘hurricane haul-out protection,’ and it usually reimburses the insured 50% of expenses up to a specified limit. Hurricane haul-out coverage customarily goes into effect if NOAA issues a hurricane watch or warning for the location where the boat is being stored.

Avoid the need for salvage altogether by accessing this benefit – and prepare that vessel for future inclement weather.

Named Storm Deductible

Another great way to prepare for hurricane season is to check your named storm deductible (NSD). Many marine policies contain up to a 10% NSD derived from the vessel’s agreed value. Some even offer partial reimbursement if you implement a hurricane haul out plan to mitigate vessel damage. That proactivity means there will be no need for a hull damage claim – and you will save a significant amount of money.

Hurricanes and Marine Insurance Claims

The two major takeaways from the 2017 Florida marine insurance claims list are to purchase adequate insurance and have a means to secure your vessel. Make a hurricane plan now for your vessel- and follow through with it. A Florida marine insurance agent with access to a variety of markets is the best advisor as you prepare for the 2018 hurricane season.

We all hope that this year is quiet compared to the 2017 maelstrom. Florida boat owners should be prepared just in case.

New Call-to-action

How to Read a Nautical Chart

From our partners at International Marine Underwriters, this post originally appeared on their Company News page, authored by John Beachley, National Product Lines Director.

Whether it’s a big commercial vessel or a small recreational boat, one should always have access to nautical charts on board. Not only that, but knowing how to read one of these charts is important while navigating the waters.

Many may think that nautical charts are the same as maps, when in fact they are much different. Nautical charts specifically depict what a boater should look out for so they have a smooth and safe ride.

In this BoatSafe.com article, the author discusses the basics of chart reading. It provides tips and insights with visuals of charts, and a real-life example of how to navigate the waters.

Before you get out on the water this upcoming boating season, it’s always a good idea to review boating basics such as this one.

For additional tips and articles, please visit imu.com.

Top 10 Boating Safety Tips

young man on a boat as part of a graphic for the ace recreational marine insurance offering

As the weather warms up, many of us head to lakes, rivers, or the ocean to fish, waterski, cruise, and relax onboard a boat, yacht or other personal watercraft. With nearly 12 million registered recreational boats in the U.S.*, it’s no wonder the waterways are a popular place to go. But, before you head out with friends and family, take note of a few important safety tips.

  1. Make sure everyone wears a life jacket.
    Victims drowned in approximately 80% of fatal boating accidents. Of those, 83% were not wearing a life jacket. Insist that your crew and guests all wear a life jacket that fits them well. This can help them stay afloat in rough waters, protect them against hypothermia, and in some cases, can keep their head above water.
  2. Use the right kind of life jackets for the situation.
    Boats 16 feet and longer must be equipped with one Type I, II, III, or V personal floatation device (PFD) plus one Type IV throwable device. Boats that are 16 feet or less must have one Type I, II, III or V PFD for each person aboard. All boats must be equipped with one Type I, II, III, or V personal floatation device for each person aboard.  Boats 16 feet and longer must also be equipped with a Type IV throwable device. All PFDs should be in good condition and have a Coast Guard Approval Number.

    1. Type I PFDs are often called off-shore life jackets. They provide the most buoyancy and are effective in all waters, especially open, rough, or remote waters where rescue may be delayed. They are designed to turn most unconscious wearers to a face-up position in the water.
    2. Type II PFDs are near-shore buoyancy vests. They are intended for calm, inland water or waters where there is a good chance of quick rescue.
    3. Type III PFDs are also called floatation aids. They are good for calm, inland water, similar to Type II.
    4. Type IV PFDs are designed to be thrown to a person in the water and grasped and held by the user until rescued.
    5. Type V PFDs are special use devices. They may be carried instead of other PFDs if used in accordance with the approved conditions designated on the label. They may be inflatable vests, deck suits, work vests, board sailing vests or hybrid PFDs.
  3. Never drink alcohol and go boating.
    Alcohol use is a leading contributor to fatal boating accidents, causing approximately 15% of the deaths each year. Stay sharp when you’re on the water by leaving the alcohol on dry land.
  4. Take a boating safety course.
    Only 13% of the boating deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received a nationally approved boating safety education certificate. You may even qualify for a reduced insurance rate if you complete a safety course. Contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadron chapter or visit uscgboating.org for details.
  5. Put down the cell phone.
    One of the top five contributing factors to boating accidents is inattention. Just like distracted driving on our highways, talking, texting, and other use of cell phones while boating is a growing problem on the water. Don’t contribute to this problem. Keep your eyes on the water ahead and around you.

Read the full article and see the rest of the list.

New Call-to-action

Boating to Cuba? Start Here

Boating to Cuba? protect your yacht, boat, or charter Is a journey to the land of epic cigars and gorgeous beaches on the horizon? If your ship’s log will soon include a Cuban voyage, we can help ensure you’re covered for the adventure.  Our insurance company partners are currently evaluating applications and offering marine insurance quotes that include coverage if you are considering boating to Cuba. Start here!

Know that you’re likely to encounter the following unique policy conditions:

  • Increased deductibles
  • Excludes confiscation by any authority
  • Theft restrictions or absolute exclusion for theft may apply
  • Passengers must have their OFAC and Coast Guard approval documentation for all persons traveling to Cuba and comply with all requirements and regulations
  • Fully paid premiums, with minimum earned and cancellation conditions.

Additionally, the boat owner likely will incur the expense of a professional marine condition and valuation survey (while hauled). This includes compliance of survey recommendations prior to departure or binding.

Coverage terms and conditions for Cuba navigation vary among insurance companies – and we’re staying abreast of all the changes. Have questions? Call us. We’re here to help you with the emerging coverage details of this new category for the U.S. insurance industry.

New Call-to-action

Bon voyage (or, as the Cubans declare: Buen viaje!)

What To Look For With Fishing Boat Insurance

If you’re like most fishermen, you’ve probably invested a lot of money in your sport – especially in your boat.  When it comes to shopping for insurance for your fishing boat, there are some things you should know.  Looking into the details now can save you from headaches later on. The time to discover you don’t have coverage is not when you have a loss. To keep it from getting too complicated, let’s start with the basics.

What to Look for in Fishing Boat Insurance

Choose an Agent: You should begin by using an agent who specializes in marine insurance. An agent who speaks to you in terms you understand is also desirable.  If you don’t understand something, ask for an explanation in layman’s terms. Ask experienced boating friends for their insurance recommendations.

Actual Cash Value vs. Agreed Value: These are the two main choices for boat insurance and depreciation is what sets them apart. No two policies are the same.

An Agreed Value policy may cost more, but it pays more. It will cover the stated value of the policy in the event of a total loss. For example, a total loss on a $50,000 agreed value policy will pay you $50,000. It may be subject to a deductible.  More importantly, a partial loss on an agreed value policy replaces most items on a “new for old” basis, with little or no depreciation, depending on the carrier.  Hence, a claim for the theft of a three-year-old bottom machine would get you a new, comparable replacement.

Actual Cash Value (ACV) policies generally cost less, but only pay up to the actual cash value at the time the boat or property was lost or damaged. Depreciation is usually calculated on all losses. ACV policies are better suited to less expensive boats or when you are not as concerned about a total loss.

Other Coverage: Some policies extend coverage to include fishing gear that you carry on the boat such as rods and reels, electronics, trolling motors, tackle, etc. You might also participate in fishing tournaments from time to time. Make sure your policy provides the liability coverage required. Do you need hurricane haul-out assistance or fuel spill coverage? Are you planning a long trip away from home? What happens if someone else drives your boat and has an accident? A good agent will review all of your options so there will be no surprises.

Deductibles: There are several ways to reduce the cost of your boat insurance. The most common way is to select the highest deductible amount that you are comfortable with. In general, physical damage deductibles start at around 1% of the value of the boat and can sometimes be increased to as much as 5%.

Now that we’ve described some of the key elements, we hope that you are in a better position to ask the right questions when buying marine insurance. Please contact our marine advisors for more guidance or visit our website at marineins.com.

New Call-to-action

Voyages to Cuba Bring Uncertainty

Map of Cuba

Florida boaters should be cautious before making plans to navigate to Cuba.

On September 18, 2015, The U.S. Department of the Treasury released new rules surrounding U.S. travel to Cuba. The administration lifted the prohibition on boating to Cuba and Cuban waters. While the intrigue is enormous, Florida boaters should be cautious before making plans for such a Caribbean voyage. Although the U.S. government has liberalized the rules, there are many unique conditions that should be considered; political risk, crime, navigational limits available on current insurance policies, just to name a few.

The new regulations bring the marine insurance industry into uncharted territory. Insurance companies are not yet offering coverage extensions for destination Cuba. The reasons that the carriers may be slow to respond are as follows:

  • Conflicting laws and regulations between U.S. agencies
  • Lack of familiarity with Cuban laws which may govern in civil and criminal matters
  • Lack of knowledge and limited opportunities for subrogation
  • Additional expense of sending marine surveyors and claims adjustors
  • Unknown/adequate repair facilities
  • Access to repair parts
  • Towing charges if the vessel had to be repatriated for repair
  • Technical complications associated with endorsing in force policies
  • No underwriting data to base rates on

It is uncertain when insurance companies will offer this coverage to the recreational boater. In the meantime, boaters are reminded that property and liability coverage only applies to claims which occur within the navigational limits stated in the boater’s policy. Wallace Welch & Willingham will stay attuned to this situation and will continue to post updates.

New Call-to-action