Winter weather is known for creating treacherous conditions on the roads. Many people, including marina owners, know that this same weather presents numerous risks to safe marina operations. When the temperature drops and winter precipitation fills the air, the role of marina insurance as the foundation of risk management cannot be overstated. Marina owners and their workers must also manage risks by understanding common winter risks for marinas. By taking an active role in identifying and mitigating these winter risks, marina operations and their customers can enjoy safe winter accommodations, no matter what the weather brings.

Boat Storage Risks in Winter

Heavy accumulations of ice and snow on boats stored in marinas are notorious for expensive damage. When snow is allowed to pile up on boat decks, its weight can damage decking and deck-mounted equipment. In severe winter events, heavy snow may even result in boats capsizing, causing complete loss of customers’ vessels. Boats held in indoor storage facilities, covered slips, or shed racks may also be at risk; excessive snowfall has caused roofs to collapse, damaging the vessels stored within. To help mitigate these risks, marina owners should encourage their customers to periodically check boats and to remove accumulations of ice and snow from deck surfaces. Marina staff members may also be called upon to perform winter maintenance tasks such as shoveling or brushing snow off customers’ boats.

Boats stored in the water during the winter months are also subject to damage from ice. In inland lake marinas or along the eastern seaboard, marina waters may freeze. As the water freezes, it can push boats against dock structures or into other vessels moored nearby, resulting in damage at or below the waterline. Boats have sunk due to the damage caused by ice – ultimately resulting in claims against marina insurance policies. Marinas subject to fierce winter weather can help mitigate freezing risks by investing in bubblers or flow induction systems to help keep water from reaching an ice state. Vessel owners may also consider investing in water warmers or bubblers; in some marina operations, vessel owners are required to use these systems to prevent expensive damage.

Slip and Fall Risks in Marinas

Boats are not the only assets at risk during the winter months. For many marina owners, the winter months represent a period when injury claims rise, straining even the most comprehensive marina insurance policies. Ice and snow on walkways can cause treacherous footing for staff members and guests. If someone were to slip on the ice, he or she could become seriously injured, and may even fall into frigid waters surrounding dock structures.

It is imperative that marina owners and managers be proactive when it comes to preventing slip and fall injuries from occurring on marina property. Clearing ice and snow from walkways, dock fingers, and sidewalks can greatly reduce the chances of injury. This should be done promptly or as weather conditions allow. Staff may also apply salt or sand to improve traction and to melt accumulations of slick ice.

Winter presents many challenges to marina operations. By identifying potential risks before they can cause issues, the chances of damage or loss are reduced. Owners should review their marina insurance policies before winter arrives to fill coverage gaps. This policy review serves to prevent unexpected out-of-pocket expenses from harming the marina business. Finally, marina customers and workers should be provided with information about preventing property damage or injury during inclement weather. Together, these strategies help keep marina operations running smoothly and safely.

About Merrimac Marine Insurance

At Merrimac Marine, we are dedicated to providing insurance for the marine industry to protect your clients’ business and assets. For more information about our products and programs, contact our specialists today at (800) 681-1998.