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… because the skipper’s liability is the greatest risk to which a skipper of a charter yacht is exposed. Because he has unlimited and unrestricted personal liability with all his present and future assets. “I’m experienced, I’m careful and I know what I’m doing,” some people might think. Incidentally, I have years of experience and nothing has ever happened to me.

We are not writing this primarily to unsettle you and sell you insurance. But to show you the reality in no uncertain terms. When I invented skipper liability over 25 years ago because of the risks involved, it was often dismissed as theoretical. But Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong at some point, somewhere” has clearly shown us the realities in recent years.

Looking back, we can now confirm that many of the feared risks have materialized in practice and that skipper liability was economically “vital” for the skippers concerned. In contrast to surety insurance, which always involves a limited sum, the risk of loss in the liability sector is unlimited. To avoid overlaps, however, both should be in one hand to avoid discussions with two different insurers in the event of a claim. The same applies to direct “bonding insurance” with fleet operators, where the conditions – with the exclusions – are often only disclosed when a claim occurs. The fact that many of them are disproportionately expensive is a notable side issue.

I would like to explain why we consider skipper liability insurance to be so important using the following 4 specific examples.

1. there was the Chief of Police from Vienna.

who, as an experienced, damage-free skipper of many years’ standing, struck a motor yacht while parking his charter yacht and. caused a scratch of about 80 cm. This can happen . he thought – without worrying too much about it. After all, he was promised that the chartered yacht was insured against liability anyway in the charter contract. To cut a long story short, the injured party’s justified claim amounted to € 30,000 and the Croatian liability insurance company simply did not pay! The President was rightly held personally liable for the damage. His luck was in, he had taken out a skipper’s liability insurance with us as a precaution. And together with our insurer, we are trying to recover the claim from the Croatian insurer of the charter yacht by taking legal action. The whole thing happened 5 years ago and the proceedings have been ongoing ever since. A costly journey that has so far cost around € 80,000. No end in sight yet. Many a skipper will probably have to ask themselves whether they want to use this
proceedings would have gone through. You can find the whole story in the forum: unter segeln, by Marcus Silbergasser

2. there was the skipper who was surprised by a storm.

He looked for a bay and dropped anchor as a precaution. The problem: a strong wind blew into the supposedly sheltered bay and – unbelievably – the wide anchor chain broke. The result is a total loss. The problem: an anchor chain was not allowed to break in the given situation (the reason: it had been welded together, a veritable risk of breakage). Consequence: the skipper, with his 30,000 nm of experience, was sentenced by a Greek 1st court for endangering public safety (meaning his sailing buddies, with whom he has been going on a men’s cruise for over 10 years). They all confirmed that he had behaved in an exemplary manner during the accident and that they did not feel they were in danger at any time. But that didn’t help. But fortunately he had legal expenses and skipper’s liability insurance with us. We appealed and after 4 years of negotiation in the 2nd instance we achieved an acquittal. This was very important for the skipper, as he could have been held liable for the total loss of the yacht. You can find the whole story in the forum Unter Segeln

3. there was the case made by a funny joker

Another very experienced skipper chartered a Lagoon in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, he had a problem with his electrics on the very first day. His charterer advised him to tie up at a mooring he knew to be safe, spend the night there and wait for the serviceman the next day. Skipper and crew took their dinghy to the nearby restaurant within sight of the yacht for a meal. Suddenly they saw that the ship had obviously become independent and was drifting. They quickly ran to the dinghy, but – a classic – the outboard motor never starts when it is urgently needed. The Lagoon was badly damaged on a nearby rock – total loss € 380,000 – The German hull insurer took recourse against the skipper and sued him
for total loss compensation due to gross negligence. The cause: the mating rope was cut by a “joker”. Fortunately, the skipper took the corpus delicti with him. The judge of the first instance said: he had nothing to do with sailing, but to leave such an expensive ship alone and go out to eat was probably grossly negligent. Even if the ship is within sight. In our opinion, there could be no question of gross negligence. Together with our insurer, we took over the defense and reached an agreement with the hull insurer in favor of the skipper

4. there was the Czech skipper with many years of experience, who had been “sold” a skipper’s liability insurance by the charter agency,

which she didn’t quite know why she really needed, but it cost practically nothing when divided among the crew, she thought.
They chartered in Croatia and spent the night in a relatively sheltered island world, the boat carefully moored to a secure buoy. The next day, they went to a nearby hill to enjoy the islands in the rising sun. And what they saw was their drifting ship, which shortly afterwards sank on a nearby rock – total loss. What had happened? The chartered boat’s mooring rope was rotten and brittle inside – as the crew of the rescue company had discovered. However, the Croatian hull insurer of the ship spontaneously pleaded gross negligence and demanded compensation of € 148,000 from the skipper, payable within 8 days. Fortunately, her charter agency had “turned her on” to a skipper’s liability policy from Yacht-Pool. We were therefore able to take over the case immediately and “explain” to the Croatian hull insurer with the appropriate emphasis what is grossly negligent and what is not. The matter was thus settled by the tacit waiver of the Croatian hull insurer.

Without skipper liability, the skipper would probably not have been spared payment of this amount or at least a lengthy legal dispute before a Croatian court a` la police commissioner.

The examples could go on and on. And what they have in common in most cases is that the damage is not caused by the skipper’s reckless actions, but the attempts at recourse by the insurers of the charter yachts have become a potential risk from our point of view.

In this sense, Yacht-Pool can also be seen as insurance against insurance. Don’t leave it at that, but let yourself be “talked into” a skipper’s liability insurance now, because it may be too late afterwards. In the hope that you will not need them, we wish you the best of luck.

many beautiful trips and always a handful of water under the keel.

Dr. Friedrich Schöchl

But there is the skipper who just asked me. whether I heard the plop of the stone that had just fallen from his heart. He emailed me this when I had just finished writing the 4 examples that I actually wanted to leave it with.

What had happened? The skipper was moored with a charter yacht on the quay of a promenade in Greece. Passers-by discovered a carpet of dirt in the water near the ship. It was clear to her that this pollution could only come from him. The police were called, the skipper was taken to the station and questioned for 3 hours. His wife was (fortunately) allowed to stay on board. Fortunately, because while she was questioning her husband, she noticed that the same carpet of dirt was moving from the open sea towards the quay. She immediately reported this discovery to the police. However, they were not interested in this, just as little as the assertion that all valves were always closed and that the type of pollution could not have come from the ship.

Conclusion: First instance complaint and conviction for environmental pollution. Not an easy judgment for the previously blameless skipper. He didn’t think our special legal protection insurance, which is aimed at precisely this type of official encroachment, was absolutely necessary, but he had taken it out as a precaution. A stroke of luck, because we went to appeal with our Greek lawyer. And barely 5 years passed before the acquittal in the 2nd instance took place and the stone fell from the heart of the blameless citizen.

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