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Pantaenius – Smooth sailing is more than a favourable weather forecast

by John Curnow on 27 Apr 2016
Say no more - smooth sailing all the way with Pantaenius... John Curnow
As Pantaenius get ready to launch into their fourth year operating in Australia, we get to see why they continue to grow their happy crew of customers. Sitting down with Pantaenius Australia’s MD, Jamie MacPhail, you immediately get a sense that the smooth sailing is a direct result of both their unique product and the marketplace’s willingness to embrace the better mousetrap.

There has been a concerted effort to educate the market as to the benefits of the all-risk policy and the agreed value it comes with. It has worked, with thousands running off to check the value on the cover of their policy and the statement inside from their insurer that means they will only get market value in the event of a total loss. Naturally, many of these found their way to Pantaenius’ door and are now part of the ever-growing crew of clients from power and sail, cruising and racing, wakeboarding and fishing.

Yet the education has also gone into why people need boat surveys, rig reports and mooring service statements. So apart from getting a better picture of your craft, for the people that really know boats, which means your premium will be a better reflection of your situation, the due diligence also means you can be at arms length to a degree when things don’t go so well.

We got Jamie MacPhail to explain what this all means.

“Yes. We are out there proactively educating owners about making sure they're less likely to be involved in losses. It is both a function of the nature of our all-risk and agreed value policy, as well as wanting to ensure they are safe and do not have to make a claim for a serious or total loss.”

“We really do believe education will, at the end of the day, result in less losses. It's easy enough to force premiums through the roof, but that is not good for everyone and obviously, no claim at all is way, way better than a fast settled claim!”

“You see most of the other insurers don't have direct relationships with quite a large percentage of their database. They're dealing through commission-based third parties, and I don't think they hold enough information on the boats to be able to tackle promotion the way that we've been able to. I think they've got a long way to go to understand what we already understand about our boat owners in our database”, said MacPhail.

“When you deal with Pantaenius, and where a boat is six years older or more, our underwriters insist that there is a survey report. Now a survey often scares people, for they think they're going to need to spend thousands of dollars. In a lot of cases, we'll accept a one-page statement from a surveyor or a qualified shipwright to state that the boat is seaworthy.”

“We're not looking to understand the condition of everything on the boat and this generally cuts the cost down significantly. So I guess for $500-600, somebody with a $200,000-300,000 yacht or power boat will get a report that shows in the case of a powerboat for example, that the shaft seals are good from neck to stern, that the exhaust systems and the hose clamps are OK, and that the fittings have all been serviced.”

“We want to make sure that the owners have performed at least the minimum degree of ongoing service and maintenance on their boat, to ensure that the boat doesn't sink for some reason that's easily avoidable.”

“From a sailing yacht point of view, we insist that the rig, chain plates and those sorts of things are checked. When it comes to reports, we're looking to ensure that somebody's been up the rig and made sure that the turnbuckles aren't all corroded away at the top of the rig, because nobody's been to look at it in six years”, explained MacPhail.

“Some think we are forcing them to spend money, but we know through our database, which has been recording information since the early 60’s, that 10-15% of all claims for both powerboats and yachts invariably come from issues that could have easily been solved with a very basic maintenance program.

We are merely working with them to see that they don't put themselves at risk, and at the end of the day, we're going to see less claims because of good preventative maintenance.”

“We're encouraging people to check and replace rigging where it's worn, or to make sure that those two hose clamps are secure over the through-hull fittings and the hose clamps aren't corroded away. For example, cruising yachts have to check their rigs all the time as the rig bounces around, shudders and so forth. Split pins can get crushed, pop out and the next thing you know the rig goes over the side. For the sake of checking a tiny, little two-dollar part that corroded away because nobody bothered to check it you can prevent a $100,000 or $200,000 loss.”

“It is not about our client base spending a lot of money, but more about investing a bit of time and commitment, so as to ensure their boats are properly maintained and as safe as possible. When they produce a rig report from the rigger about a six or eight-year-old rig and it says it is OK, we accept that risk, even if the rig then falls down three months later because there was a component that was missed by the rigger or something you couldn't identify with the rig.”

MacPhail then went on to add, “Unlike our competitors we won't reject the claim. They would send a surveyor out to look at the loss, and not having a report on file, they'd say, ‘Well that's a wear and tear issue. We're not paying the claim.”

“Whereas with Pantaenius, even though technically we can reject on those clauses because they are parts of our exclusion, because we have the report from the client, it effectively indemnifies the client for the following 12 months. It's a further safety policy for the yacht owner to ensure that if something untoward does happen, that could not have been easily identified had there been a survey taken place, they can still make an insurance claim.”

“It is an important difference between our competitors and us. All reasonable steps were taken and the same type of system applies with moorings, too. We insist on a mooring report that says that the mooring has been serviced within the last 12 months. This is consistent with State maritime mooring laws anyway these days.”

“Equally, the mooring has to be fit for purpose. If you decide to put an Adams cruiser on your mooring, then somebody's got to sign off that the mooring block and the chain and the equipment is actually suitable for your 50-footer and not just a 25 foot powerboat. So in servicing their mooring, it's then a function of the mooring contractor to say, ‘I checked the mooring and it's fit for purpose.’ Very rarely is there any additional cost to the boat owner.”

“As long as we've got the report in place, then should a storm come through and the boat breaks free, our ability as an insurer to reject their claim becomes significantly reduced. So it's a way for our client to further indemnify themselves of our ability, as an insurer, to reject their claim.”

“Other insurers don't specifically ask for these reports, because in the asking they've actually watered down their ability to effectively use their exclusion clauses to deny a claim”, stated MacPhail.

Now the crew at Pantaenius have all been around the marine industry for ages and are still active campaigners on the water too. MacPhail explains that this extra knowledge is appreciated by their clients who see that it is about improving the overall safety of their clients’ time out of the water.

“Sure we want a survey up front for a six or seven year old boat, but we would only then need an update every two or three years thereafter. Equally, as a rig gets into 10 years old, then we encourage people to start replacing their standing rigging. You see, all the well-known manufacturers (Navtec, Ronstan, BSI) recommend that their product has a life span of 10 years and that it should be replaced by then.”

“It is the same for cordage, too. If you've just bought a Nautor’s Swan that's 20 years old and it's got cordage from then for its runners, then good luck getting an insurance company to cover if the rig falls down because the rope fails.

'True, it is a Rolls Royce of the sea and they last forever, but all the components on the yacht are no different to the components on all the other yachts, and they all have a life span and it is not necessarily the serviceable life span of the yacht that they're sailing on!”

Elsewhere in the Pantaenius Australia world there is a lot happening. Yes, the client base grows everyday and this includes more powerboats and multihulls, including powercats. As a direct result, Pantaenius’ commitment to the industry expands regularly. There are still the AIMEX and Superyacht Conference and the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, Airlie Beach Race Week, and Sail Port Stephens, but the newest is the recent New South Wales Game Fishing Association’s Interclub challenge. A large, 150-boat fleet and some spectacular craft were highlights there. Pantaenius continues took at ways to return back to the industry, and no doubt there will be more events in the coming months.

The fact that Pantaenius is also the only insurer staffed entirely by people who know boats is also a major element of the mix. Reflecting on the market and the industry as a whole, MacPhail commented, “The referral element is significant. We know what a tropical storm is, we know what a keel is, and we can help with advice on setting your boat up for a voyage. Everyone in the office can talk intelligently about setting up a cruising plan to bring your boat back from the Mediterranean.”

“Today, we're the only crew in the industry that can do that. All the other players are general insurers by nature. Everyday we speak to people who are pleasantly surprised to know that we know what sort of yacht they've got. We could possibly know whom they bought it from and have a fair idea of how much money they paid, as well.”

“Currently, Australia is spending more money on powerboats than they have in the last three to five years. I think the marketplace is slowly growing in terms of the boating public and the number of participants on the water is slowly getting more and more. I don't think it's jumping through the roof, but I think by the same token there are potentially more boats sold now than there has been in the last six or eight years. In the production yacht market, particularly. There's more and more choice, as well and it is a challenging market for sure.”

So if you want to make your marine pleasure craft insurance all about smooth sailing, then call Pantaenius on or visit In the end, you’ll see that a little extra detail early on in the piece will help you have a safer time on the water, as well as the best possible premium. Should it all go South on you at some point, then you will also have the added benefit of being more at arms length and your claim will be processed expeditiously and fairly. That could well be the biggest win of all! app (top)