What happens if somebody gets injured on the gangway between the vessel and the dock or shore? If it’s one of your crewmembers, the vessel’s Jones Act or maintenance and cure coverage will probably pay the injury claim. But if it’s almost anyone else, there may be questions.

Will the vessel’s insurance cover it or your commercial general liability policy?

The U.S. Coast Guard treats the gangway as part of the shore (at least that’s been my experience). But what if the gangway isn’t yours? Your general liability insurance won’t respond because an incident on that gangway is not on your premises.

If you offload passengers at a municipal or other government dock, will the government’s insurance respond or your vessel’s protection and indemnity liability insurance? I doubt it. If your passenger falls getting on board the vessel from the gangway, maybe your vessel’s insurance would respond. But what if the passenger gets injured in any other part of the gangway (which, you recall, is not yours), such as slipping or tripping as they walk from the gangway to the solid dock, float or ground? The insurer will probably try to deny the claim. I’ve even seen claims denied where a workman, not crew, was injured climbing from the vessel to the gangway then onto a scaffold around the vessel.

Insurance companies exist to make a profit. If the claim may be legally denied the insurer will probably deny it. My task was always to get as much coverage for clients by trying to fill in the gaps where coverage may or may not exist.

About 30 years ago, I worked with an insurer to make up a coverage (a manuscript endorsement) for the gangway when a passenger is injured no matter where the gangway leads. That insurer agreed to go further to include passengers while ashore on a stop that was part of the itinerary. Once that endorsement was used with that insurer the rest of the ocean marine insurers picked it up as well. Problem solved.

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