Under the new rules, boat operators will have to prove they have valid insurance for themselves and their charterers from January 1 to get annual permits. The requirements require operators and their clients to have a minimum of $1 million per event and $500,000 per person when chartering a vessel.
Boat charter campaigners alleged that insurers Not on board ABC and other reports say the changes will lead to rising insurance costs and a lack of capacity.
New Security Act comes into effect #Florida Today there is an insurance requirement that affects boat rental businesses across the state. https://t.co/xgdxiD3xoT via @gangre
— Craig Pittman (@craigtimes) December 1, 2022
Concerns were so strong that Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) pledged to take an education rather than enforcement approach for six months, according to reports.
However, if rental operators do not access insurance coverage by the January deadline, they risk being left in an even tougher position, an insurance expert has warned.
“What many liveries in Florida are learning now is that the FWC is not going to enforce the bill, and there are still a lot of implications because it’s written into the law that they have to insure their renters.” said Cam Serigne, founder and CEO of vQuip.
“If they don’t extend their coverage or see if their carrier is willing to extend, they could be left open in those first six months.”
Serigne emphasized “communication” between businesses and their agents.
“It’s a changing ecosystem of renters insurance, and there’s a lot of downside risk if we don’t make people aware of it,” he said.
Closing the insurance “gap”.
In the weeks following the campaigners’ warning, at least two insurance ventures have offered to offer insurance, vQuip and partner One80 intermediaries.
With less than three weeks to go before the crucial January deadline, vQuip last week launched a “first-of-its-kind” personal yacht charterers’ liability scheme. The product is available in 50 states.
According to Serigne, the business began developing its yacht charter product “about two years ago.”
“There was a big hole in the rental markets where businesses themselves would own these big commercial insurance policies and million-dollar limits and insure themselves,” he said.
“What most renters don’t understand is, I would say in most situations, the policy doesn’t extend coverage to the renter.”
The product was originally envisioned with a $300,000 limit in mind, but Florida’s requirements led to an upward revision.
“When we saw what was happening in Florida, […] We realized we had to come up with a solution, so we got to work [our partners] “To get our policy up to a million to provide a solution for renters in Florida,” Serigne said.
“The big issue is that the state’s markets don’t have much time to operate, and we’ve been able to help.”
Improving Conservation in Florida’s Watersheds
The new rules are aimed at increasing security and reducing rogue operators.
According to FWC statistics, 2,461 people were injured in boating accidents in Florida in 2021, with rentals accounting for 18% of the vessels involved in the incidents.
“Prior to this legislation, renters assumed a large amount of liability through most rental agreements – and were historically excluded by commercial policies, leaving a gap in coverage,” said Bolt Chief MGA Officer Rob Bauer.
“Injury statistics show that boat rentals carry a risk. A decision not to insure any act is a decision to retain or effectively self-insure.
Markle and Bolt announced Tuesday the launch of their yacht charterers’ insurance through the Bolt Agency’s Boy.
“Florida has a vibrant boating culture and a thriving boat rental market, and it’s important to ensure that both can continue to thrive while keeping boats safe,” Bauer said.
“It’s a Florida focus, and we’re excited to offer Buoy in other states or markets with similar goals.”
Using technology to bring products to market
Both businesses have looked to technology in their bid to provide protection for boat liveries and charterers.
One80 and vQuip have made an app available for boat liveries. When a new booking is created, the rental services will be asked to share the link with the renters so they can fill in their details.
Buoy also uses an app that has check-in and check-out functionality, as well as safety education and compliance.