NOT SAFE TO LEAVE IT ANYWHERE? – As Insurers, we have seen a dramatic increase in claims for theft over the past few years. Although the theft of dinghies and outboards has always been a fairly regular occurrence, there is a disturbing and continuing increase in the misappropriation and theft of higher value yachts.  In the past, a high proportion of yacht thefts were effected by charterers misappropriating vessels for illegal activities but in many cases these were eventually located and recovered, albeit with varying degrees of damage, after their purpose had been served. However, there are now indications that the emphasis has moved from the charter fleet boat to privately owned boats.

From our experience, a stolen private boat is less likely to be recovered. In most cases, there appears to be no particular reason why a particular boat is targeted, other than its location, accessibility and lack of adequate security making it easier to steal than the next. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that some boats are stolen to order and all obvious means of identity are modified within a short period of the theft. There is also speculation that there is a market for these boats in South America, Croatia and the Ukraine but this is a hypothesis that is difficult to substantiate.

Regretfully, the investigation of boat related theft and the prevention thereof generally appears to figure fairly low on the list of priorities. Available resources will always be an issue so everyone must become more aware that they have a responsibility to do their utmost to protect their property. Although many will consider it to be at least an inconvenience, not to say an additional expense, effective security and tracing measures must be implemented. No one can now leave a dinghy and outboard unattended for even a short period unless they wish to invite an opportunist theft – far too many pleasant long lunches have been spoilt on finding that on return the dinghy has gone missing!

Although people may have a lot of capital tied up in their floating real estate, they don’t seem to have the same security concerns that they would have if they owned a land-based property. A home is likely to have an entry alarm system, to varying degrees of sophistication, but a boat is often left with only rudimentary security. The cost of fitting a proprietary GPS tracking system with a ‘geofence’ has, from our experience, resulted in 100% recovery rate of stolen boats. Cheap and highly effective – it’s almost worth the money to see the expression of disbelief when the perpetrators are caught red-handed.

Apart from taking personal responsibility, all boat owners and operators should put collective pressure, through their clubs and associations, on all private marine operations and civic authorities to address the obvious problems. Something as simple as a marine equivalent of a neighbourhood watch scheme would be a step in the right direction. Over the coming months, we will set up a free web based boat registration site to assist in immediate disbursement of information should a boat be stolen. Those registering will be able update any changes to their boat and equipment on-line. Anyone wishing to make any suggestions regarding what they would like to see incorporated in the registration site please email the writer at [email protected]