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Expert insight to build a buoyant book of watercraft business

Q. What types of watercraft are candidates for coverage? Erin Deaton, Senior Underwriter at the Burns & Wilcox Marine Center of Excellence, responds:

Our capabilities are very broad. We can cover a wide range of watercraft, from a small airboat to a $200 million yacht; from pontoon boats to high-performance vessels that operate up to 120 mph. We can handle corporately titled vessels, vessels flagged in another country for tax purposes, and a variety of other unique coverage requirements. We are working hard to ensure we have the markets to cover everyone’s needs.

Q. Why is having an additional level of expertise important in writing watercraft?

Deaton: Watercraft can be more complicated to write than other lines because it demands a high level of knowledge to write well. The reality is that most agents don’t see watercraft cases as frequently as we do. With our assistance, we can broaden their reach while fortifying their knowledge base. We know why coverage for a lower unit is important and how to cover a client whose boat is owned by a separate corporate entity. We also are adept at placing coverage for a vessel owner who’s embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Doing the little things really can ensure your client is made whole in the event of a claim and/or an E&O issue.

Q. Talk more about the benefits of working with the Burns & Wilcox Marine Center of Excellence?

Deaton: Because we view agents as our partners, our marine resources, markets and expertise function as your personal boat department. The key to any well-written account is the ability to ask the right questions — expert fact-finding. When we suggest the right questions to ask, while providing access to the right markets, your clients gain confidence in your ability to cover all their insurance needs. What’s more, agents gain peace of mind knowing they minimized their own risk by placing watercraft business through Burns & Wilcox marine experts.

Q. What challenges are agents most likely to encounter in today’s marine market?

Deaton: The slow economic recovery has left a large amount of lower-priced used boats on the market. Boaters are taking advantage of these values, and making leaps into much larger vessels. But with this buyer’s market comes a two-fold challenge. Unlike in the automotive market, where practically anyone with enough money and a driver’s license can buy, insure and drive a Ferrari, in the marine world boating experience tends to be a prerequisite for upgrading to a larger vessel. Generally a jump of 10 feet in boat size is considered acceptable; for increases larger than that, agents typically need an expert to work out a plan with a carrier. Secondly, with larger, older boats come additional obligations. Surveys are often required to acquire insurance, while hurricane proposals for a 40-foot boat take considerably more planning than for a 25-foot boat. Here’s where help from an experienced marine professional can really make a difference.

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