Your vessel just sank. Now what? A few years ago I received phone calls from two clients. Each reported that one of their vessels had sunk in salt water.

I told them to act as if the vessels were uninsured and take some quick steps.

First, I told them to get the vessel off the bottom and on to dry land. I told them to document all expenses and take photos for their insurance company.

Next, I asked them to drain the machinery and to "pickle" all of it. Pickling means filling the engine, reduction gear case or other machinery with kerosene to displace any salt water. The idea is to prevent rust and save the machinery. I strongly suggested that they get a mechanic to help or for consultation. What about the electronics and wiring? They were probably destroyed, so my advice was to not waste too much time on it.

On my end, I immediately turned in a claim to each insurance company. I explained what I had told each client and asked that the claims person contact the insured as soon as possible.

For one client, that's when the fun began. A claims adjuster called the vessel owner and said to do nothing until a surveyor arrived. That client called me and asked what to do. I told him to follow what the adjuster had told him. However, by the time the surveyor showed up, the diesel engine, which was only a year old, was seized up from salt-water intrusion. It needed total replacement, which entailed cutting a hole in the deck to get the engine out and install a new engine. This meant significant down time and loss of earnings.

Was the process covered by insurance? Yes. Was the lost income from the extra work covered? No.

The other vessel's machinery was pickled and the surveyor determined that the engine and other machinery could be saved. Repairs were completed quickly and the vessel was placed back in service.

Both claims were valid and paid in full. Both policies were identical but with different insurance companies. Both of my clients did exactly what they were asked to do but with vastly different results.

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