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Boat insurance extension requested of Powell River Council

Marine surveyor recommends grace period for boaters in north harbour to meet requirement
SURVEYS REQUIRED: PR Marine Surveyors owner Roger Whittaker appeared before City of Powell River’s committee of the whole to ask for a grace period for boaters that do not yet have marine liability insurance. Boaters have until December 31 to comply.

City of Powell River councillors were urged to consider providing an extension for boat owners to procure marine liability insurance for vessels in the north harbour.

At the December 5 committee of the whole meeting, PR Marine Surveyors owner Roger Whittaker appeared to address councillors about the north harbour rates and regulations bylaw, and the stipulation for marine liability insurance for boaters on January 1.

Whittaker said if a grace period was granted, it would only apply to about 10 per cent of the boats in the north harbour.

He said there were inaccuracies in the city’s report. He said in the city’s staff report, it stated that staff had several conversations with marine surveyors that indicated not all vessels will require a survey for insurance.

“I can assure you with full confidence that no underwriter is going to underwrite a million-dollar policy without seeing the whole boat,” said Whittaker. “Also, quoting from the report, some underwriters will provide vessel insurance pending a survey, so it may be possible for boaters to beat the bylaw requirements for confirmation of insurance while awaiting a survey. No underwriter will write a policy for a million dollars pending a survey.”

Whittaker said he had eight boats lined up over the next 10 days awaiting surveys.

He said city staff had reached out to four surveyors in other communities, who stated they have the capacity and are willing to provide their services to Powell River boaters immediately.

“It has been suggested that boaters can group together and minimize the extra expense that travel to the community would require,” said Whittaker. “This raises several questions. The first one is, is city hall willing to drive all the business out of town, or just the marine business? Has city hall put any thought to what the downstream damage is when the marine-focused businesses in town are having city hall invite out-of-towners come and set up shop?”

Whittaker asked, regarding the out-of-town surveyors, if city hall wondered, when there are several competent surveyors here, who are jammed up, why the out-of-town people suddenly have lots of room in their schedules.

“I know of two, in spitting distance of this town, who aren’t allowed on most of the marinas that I attend to, because of their incompetence and lack of professionalism,” said Whittaker.

He said he begs council to consider an alternative motion to grant a grace period, to allow the local marine industry the opportunity to satisfy the needs of this community.

Councillor Rob Southcott said most of the correspondence he has received regarding marine liability insurance has been in support of insurance. He said it was boaters who were pushing insurance, not the city.

Councillor Cindy Elliott, whose family members own a boat yard, said she concurred with Whittaker about boaters pooling their resources and getting out-of-town surveyors to come in. She said it’s just not possible, and likely all those spots to lift those boats are already full.

“It was a misrepresentation of what is physically possible,” said Elliott.

She said Jack’s Boat Yard is closed from December 17 to January 3, so year-end surveys could not be accommodated at the boat yard.

Councillor Earl Almeida said there has been more than a year’s notice about the requirement for marine liability insurance. He asked Whittaker if he was busy now or had it been busy the entire year.

Whittaker indicated he was before council, not because of his business, but because there is a problem with policy. He said he was always busy and has a stack of surveys on his desk.

“When I say I have eight boats to view in the next 10 days,” said Whittaker, “that’s normal operating procedure.”

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