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Boat insurance to be investigated by City of Powell River staff

Bylaw established January 1 as a deadline but some vessel owners will have trouble meeting it, says surveyor
REQUESTS GRACE: PR Marine Surveyors owner Roger Whittaker approached City of Powell River Council to suggest that some boat owners may need an amnesty with January 1 insurance deadline looming.

City of Powell River staff will be looking into the matter of boat owners who might be having trouble meeting the deadline for boat insurance for city harbours.

At the November 16 city council meeting, Roger Whittaker, of PR Marine Surveyors, said last year, city council passed a motion and made a bylaw for all boats in the civic harbour to have insurance by January 1, 2024.

“It’s been hammer and tong doing these surveys,” said Whittaker. “I have 20 surveys on my desk, four more arranging for a lift, and several more messages. We can count some 20-plus vessels that are waiting to be insured.

“Second to that, the insurance companies have changed tremendously in the way they accept insurance documents or process surveys for insurance documents. I’m now getting calls from people who have older boats, saying insurance companies won’t take them anymore – what do they do?”

Whittaker asked if there is some way city council and staff could take the people who have at least gone through the motion of having a survey requested, or their documents are waiting to be processed, or they have their documents and they are trying to find an insurance company, to give them a few months to let the process occur.

“Here’s where the bottleneck is,” said Whittaker. “If I work diligently every day getting everything on my desk finished, I’ll not be done just what’s on my desk, just to give boat owners their paperwork back.

“I’m asking for grace for those who are in the mill already, or making their way toward that happening, not a general amnesty or forgiveness.”

Councillor Jim Palm said he was pleased Whittaker brought this forward because he had been receiving phone calls about the matter. He said some boat owners who have larger vessels are having a hard time with insurance providers covering all the categories the city is asking for.

“That is causing a great deal of concern among our boat owners and I’m not sure what the answer is, but I want to make staff aware of this so we can take a second look at what we are asking, and make sure it’s a viable option for people who own those boats,” added Palm.

Councillor Cindy Elliott asked staff if there is a way the city can canvas boat owners to find out where they are at with the insurance process and figure out what could be done.

“In order for us to provide direction we need feedback from them,” said Elliott.

Amendment needed

Chief administrative officer Lisa Bhopalsingh said if council wanted to consider providing grace, it would have to amend the bylaw.

“We would have to have direction from you to make a bylaw amendment,” said Bhopalsingh. “In terms of canvassing, I’m wondering, councillor Elliott if you are thinking there are more than Mr. Whittaker has said are in need of this?”

Elliott said regarding those who might be in the stages with the process of trying to get their insurance and may not make the deadline, she’d like to know how many there are and how much time they need.

Chief financial officer Mallory Denniston said council can direct staff to have the wharfinger prepare a notice, and staff can also send emails out to harbour users.

“Between a notice at the harbour and emails, we could request that those needing an extension to email the wharfinger,” said Denniston. “We could then report those numbers.”

Councillor George Doubt said he’d like to spend some time with staff thinking about what to do and taking some time to come up with a solution.

“Maybe it’s possible to leave the matter with council and staff to look at different solutions,” said Doubt. “There needs to be a way to ease the transition for people.”

Deputy corporate officer Jessica Lefort said a motion might be helpful to provide direction to staff.

Elliott make a motion to direct staff to investigate the issue and bring recommendations back to council for how the issue might be addressed.

Councillor Earl Almeida said the matter is time-sensitive and asked if council wanted to put a date in the motion. Denniston said a date would be helpful.

“Those who don’t have insurance as of January 1 would lose their slip and there is a very lengthy wait list,” said Denniston. “If this isn’t made in time to amend the bylaw, staff will be stuck with that decision. We must follow the bylaw, so January 1, there would be a lot of very difficult news for staff to deliver. It is time-sensitive.”

Almeida said he wanted to amend Elliott’s motion for a report to come back to committee of the whole on December 5. Council carried the amendment and the motion for staff to investigate the issue and bring recommendations back to council on that date.

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