Navigating an insurance incident during the pandemic
Captain Chris Bruce of S/Y 'Q5' on the challenges of undertaking an insurance claim alongside COVID-19 restrictions…
At the end of February, the 30m catamaran Q5 was docked in Nassau when another vessel, upon entering the marina, lost control and reversed into it. Q5 suffered damage to both sides of the starboard transom and, after surveys were undertaken by both parties, it was agreed that there was damage to the core of the hull that was now getting wet.
Due to the nature of the damage, Q5 needed to be hauled out as soon as possible. But, with a beam of 48ft, the yacht’s options for getting out of the water are very limited. “There are only three places on the east coast of the U.S. that can accommodate a superyacht like Q5 and two of them are commercial dry docks, so not ideal for long-term yard periods,” explains Q5’s captain, Chris Bruce. “Thunderbolt Marine is the only superyacht shipyard that can actually get us out of the water, via its synchro-lift.”
The crew of Q5 carried out a temporary repair and then headed to the Savannah-based shipyard to haul out on 16 March, just before lockdown restrictions in the U.S. tightened. “Trying to do a refit on any boat of this size at such short notice is a challenge, but the pandemic just threw everything up in the air,” adds Captain Bruce. “We were lucky with the timing – if the boat didn’t get out of the water when it did, we might have still been sitting in the water with the boat’s damaged area getting wet and further damaged.”
“Trying to do a refit on any boat of this size at such short notice is a challenge, but the pandemic just threw everything up in the air...”
Navigating a non-fault claims process is an aggravation at the best of times, but doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused additional disruption and delays to both the repair and insurance process. “The shipyard completely shut down for a period,” says Captain Bruce. “The company doing the fibre glass and carbon work were subcontracted, so they were allowed to continue as normal as long as they were social distancing.
“However, the scaffolding company had shut down, so the crew had to build the scaffold and the tents for the paint repair. There were three different colours to paint, and the repair was halfway up the inboard and outboard of the starboard hull, so there was quite a big area to sand. Normally there would have been 10 to 12 personnel on the scaffold, but instead there was only two because of social distancing measures.”
Due to the additional safety measures and reduced manpower, the repair has taken a lot longer than it would in non-pandemic times. Captain Bruce estimates that that, in a normal situation, the paint work would have been completed before the end of April, but instead the final paint shoot took place just last week, in the first week of June, therefore adding over a month to the yard period. And this additional time spent in the yard, and the associated costs, is now being probed by the vessel at fault’s insurance company.
“We are having some issues because we are submitting all the fees to the other insurance company and they are questioning why the stay in the yard has been so long...”
“We are having some issues because we are submitting all the fees to the other insurance company and they are questioning why the stay in the yard has been so long,” explains Captain Bruce. “Our argument is that we wouldn’t have been here otherwise; Q5 was only just launched in December following an annual yard period, so the owner could have spent this period isolating on the boat.”
Additionally, there have been challenges with ensuring that Q5’s crew can properly isolate while the boat is undergoing works. “There has been a locked door at the bottom of the scaffold with a video doorbell to get onto the boat,” says Captain Bruce. “We drive to the shipyard from the crew house and, when we are on the boat, we lock the door so no one can get on board. When yard employees or contractors need to come on deck, they ring the door bell, we open the door and the crew stay inside the boat. The crew haven’t even been out provisioning since we left the Bahamas.”
When Q5 is finally out of the shipyard, as with many yachts, it will be a case of waiting to see what happens with the pandemic. “We don’t have any firm plans yet because there are still restrictions for cruising in the U.S.,” concludes Captain Bruce. “But we want to make sure that we have been isolating properly so that when the owners do come on board, it is safe for them to do so.”
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