Marinas and yacht clubs have been an integral part of the American boat ownership experience for decade. Formerly used by boaters solely as places to purchase fuel, ice, and supplies for a day on the water, modern marinas now offer a host of services and amenities. As consumer preferences evolve, so too do marina operations. Overcoming the challenges presented by changing demands is the key to long term success. In this guide, we will explore some of the modern challenges marina owners face, helping them to manage risks and to supplement the protections of marina insurance policies.

Marinas Then and Now

Marinas were spawned in the early part of the 20th century as private recreational boating gained acceptance. These early facilities offered mooring, fuel, and basic services to boaters. As boating became more popular, marinas evolved with the times. Today, large marinas offer mooring and fuel as well as amenities like:

  • Parking facilities for trailers
  • Restaurants, bars, and clubhouses
  • Repair and maintenance services
  • Washing stations
  • Overnight or long-term utility connections for residential boaters
  • Watercraft storage
  • Swimming pools and recreational areas

As new services and amenities are added to the menu of offerings for marina guests, marina owners face new challenges. Specific risk exposures are attached to each service; navigating the complex regulatory and risk management environments alone can overwhelm even the savviest business owner. Along with marina insurance and safety-oriented practices, understanding the challenges of marina operations can help keep businesses afloat.

Current and Emerging Challenges

One aspect of marina operation that creates challenges is directly related to the growth or expansion of marina facilities. As marinas add services, they must also hire new personnel. Risks associated with employees are a central consideration for the modern marina operation. How can marina owners manage the risks of workplace safety, employee health insurance, employee issues, and other aspects that come with having a large workforce? Marina insurance is the foundation of risk management for marina owners. With this insurance in place, marinas and their owners gain valuable liability protections. Marina insurance may incorporate a wide range of specific policies and coverages, including:

  • General liability
  • Employment practices liability
  • Commercial auto
  • Commercial property
  • Pollution liability
  • Repairers’ legal liability
  • Marina operators’ legal liability
  • Workers’ compensation

Staying Abreast of Regulatory Changes

Another critical aspect of risk management for marinas is the regulatory environment in which marinas operate. Regulations regarding environmental protection and workplace safety have evolved dramatically over the past two decades; today’s laws bear little resemblance to marinas of old. Marina owners have an obligation to understand their roles and responsibilities in meeting regulatory standards, which may come from the local, state, and federal levels. Several forward-thinking marina operators have hired regulatory specialists who can help them navigate the complexities of applicable laws, while others utilize third-party consultants to remain in compliance.

The protection of marina insurance cannot be overstated when it comes to regulatory compliance. Without this valuable insurance in place, a single violation may result in steep regulatory penalties and out-of-pocket costs, potentially putting business continuity at risk.

Safety-Oriented Marina Operations

Marina owners know that an employee or guest injury can be devastating, both from financial and reputational perspectives. To help combat the risks associated with injuries on marina grounds, smart owners have implemented safety-oriented practices across operations. These practices include:

  • Posting signage in strategic locations to warn guests of hazards.
  • Inspecting equipment and facilities for potential hazards, then eliminating hazards where possible.
  • Engaging in safety training with staff and with marina guests.
  • Maintaining premises in a way that minimizes risks.
  • Improving lighting and security of marina properties.

Marina insurance policies must be evaluated and updated to reflect current risk exposures. As amenities and services are added, these insurance policies can evolve along with the marina operation, providing robust protection and helping to position the marina for continued business success.

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.