PHUKET: If there’s one thing boating enthusiasts let sail off into the wild blue yonder, it’s the thought of liability insurance. The lure of the sea apparently does not account for taking out appropriate coverage.
“One of the most alarming facts about the marine industry in Phuket, and the rest of Thailand, is that there is very little compulsory liability insurance,” says Mike Haynes, managing director of the Lambert Brothers insurance brokerage at Phuket’s Boat Lagoon Marina in Koh Kaew.
If a person wants to insure their own boat, that’s their business, says Mike, but liability insurance is for covering other people who may be affected.
The reasons for poor liability coverage in local waters are varied, explains Mike.
“It’s not so much that yacht owners are too cost-conscious to pay for it, it’s more of the mindset that ‘it won’t happen to me’.”.
What many yacht owners do know well is how prone boats are to bumps and scrapes, especially when navigating tight spaces within marinas.
“Scrape the wrong boat, and the bills can stack up very quickly,” Mike warns.
This is especially so if the damage is to an expensive private yacht, or worse, to a commercial boat. Just like hitting a taxi while driving on the road, while a commercial boat is out of action undergoing repairs – even for minor damage – the person responsible for the damage is also responsible for the loss of income while the repairs are being carried out. The loss of income could be for a simple day charter or week-long commercial hire.
But where boat owners have no choice but to carry insurance in Thailand is when they start
carrying passengers as part of conducting business, explains Pornpimol “Paew” Chimsakul, general manager at the Lambert Brothers Phuket office.
“Even then, the coverage is not much,” she says. “The standard is about 100,000 baht per death plus a nominal amount of about 15,000 baht per person to cover medical expenses.
“Any boat carrying passengers, especially tourists, must have compulsory passenger insurance. It’s the harbor master’s job to make sure that they do. Whether or not they actually do is another question.”
Friends renting out their boat for a day charter are also required to have compulsory passenger insurance. The very minute a foreign-flagged boat is used for a commercial activity, that boat must comply with Thai commercial boating laws, including the compulsory passenger insurance.
Another reason for the poor extent of liability coverage in and around Phuket is that there’s not much liability insurance offered locally for boating coverage, Mike notes.
“The market volume is not great, but there’s also the factor that there is insufficient specialist expertise among local insurance firms,” he says.
That’s where Lambert Brothers’ range and depth of experience shines through. Through opening its Phuket office at the Boat Lagoon in 2008, Lambert Brothers brought with it more than 70 years experience from Hong Kong, where the company first opened its doors in 1947.
“We started with three people, now there are eight in the office, through slow but deliberate growth.” Mike explains.
Over the years, the company’s clientele has not only grown to cover several hundred boats, but extended beyond the marine industry to now include hotels, schools as well as tailor-made packages for individuals.
Yet, the old “it won’t happen to me” attitude permeates on the island, Mike cautions.
“For some reason the holiday mentality can take over when people move to Phuket, and any thoughts of insurance just stop,” he says.
“We all know we should be more careful than that.”
— Chris Husted
Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.
Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.
Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.