Tuesday 20 August 2019

Sinking feeling: Marine leisure industry is facing 'potential disaster'

Tough times ahead: Rianne Smith in Baltimore Harbour, west Cork.
Photo: Provision
Tough times ahead: Rianne Smith in Baltimore Harbour, west Cork. Photo: Provision

Ralph Riegel

Ireland's marine leisure industry faces devastation after UK insurance syndicates warned they are no longer willing to underwrite operators because of the country's spiralling compensation culture.

The revelation came as one award-winning operator, AquaVentures, in Baltimore, west Cork, said it was given just two weeks' notice that its long-standing insurance policy will not be renewed.

The policy is set to become void from August 1 because its broker was unable to secure a UK insurance syndicate to underwrite the policy.

Virtually all Irish marine leisure operators involved in everything from angling to diving and from whale watching to marine eco-tours have insurance policies underwritten by large UK insurance syndicates.

If the firm run by Jerry and Rianne Smith now cannot secure an Irish broker who is able to agree an underwriting deal with a non-UK broker, the operation faces an uncertain future. "It is a potential disaster for everyone in the marine leisure industry," Ms Smith said.

"We were told that the UK syndicate which underwrites our policy were no longer willing to do so.

"It was the same for all other Irish marine leisure operators over recent months."

The bulk of Irish marine leisure operators - including AquaVentures - have never faced major claims because of the incredibly high safety standards boasted within the industry.

Ms Smith said that she was bluntly warned by a broker there were few options left.

"He basically told me that we had to get back to our Government and tell them to sort out the compo culture in the country," she said.

Ms Smith has run AquaVentures and the Stone House B&B with her husband, Jerry, since 1997.

"Thank God for the B&B because that is giving us some kind of fallback at the moment," she added.

Irish Independent

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