First report: Boat damage worse than photos show

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SEPT. 9 — With recovery efforts under way in the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, marine insurance companies have begun the daunting task of assessing damages to customers’ boats.

“It’s bad,” says Carroll Robertson, senior vice president of claims at BoatU.S. “The pictures we’ve seen in the media don’t do it justice.”

Three catastrophe teams from the BoatU.S. insurance operation have been deployed to Alabama, Mississippi and recently to the north shore of Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain. Others are “poised and ready to go” as more areas become accessible, Robertson says.

It will be 30 to 60 days before a team can survey damage in hard-hit New Orleans Parish, an area on the south shore of the lake in which a number of marinas are located, Robertson says.

The primary mission of these teams, according to Robertson, is to locate boats, assess damage and, if necessary, make plans for salvage. Simply locating the vessels is a challenge, she says. The team in Mississippi last week had found only three of the 35 boats it was assigned to locate, she says.

Robertson says it will be some time before the entire process of surveying damages and settling claims is complete.

“It’s going to be a marathon,” she says. “It’s not a sprint by any stretch of the imagination.”

— JoAnn W. Goddard