Boaters face many risks as they enjoy time on the water. Even under ideal weather and water conditions, boaters may experience a myriad of problems. Some of these problems can result in property damage or loss and injury. One of the most common problems is that of boat fires. Marina owners are rightly concerned about boat fires as well; a fire can quickly spread, jeopardizing the vessels docked at the marina facility and surrounding structures. Marina insurance is the foundation of risk management against fires, but marina owners and boat owners alike should become familiar with the common causes of boat fires. Here is what you need to know to protect your vessel, yourself, and your loved ones from the potential devastation of boat fires.

The Threat of Boat Fires

According to BoatUS, fires are one of the leading causes of vessel losses in the United States. Fires typically start in specific locations aboard a boat, but the fire can quickly spread to other areas. It is important to note that not all fires begin aboard; in fact, just over 25% of boat fires reported to the insurance industry began when another structure goes up in flames, like a marina or storage facility. Firers can also spread from boat to boat when moored in the close quarters of a commercial marina or overnight dock. All told, boat fires account for millions of dollars in insurance claims each year, and marina insurance can also face significant impacts from excessive fire claims.

Common Fire Sources Aboard Vessels

There are many ways a boat can catch fire. Usually, however, a boat fire is related to onboard systems and equipment. The most common fire causes aboard vessels include:

  • Engine fires
  • Electrical fires
  • Galley fires

In enclosed engine compartments, a fuel leak or other flammable substance can quickly catch fire and overwhelm even the most prepared mariner. Some vessels are equipped with automatic fire suppression systems in engine spaces, but many are not. Boaters must be prepared to spring into action if a fire breaks out; fuel cutoffs and fire extinguishers should be present on any boat.

Electrical fires can come from numerous sources. Typically, boats in marinas can use onboard battery (DC) power unless they are hooked to a shore power system (AC). Each of these connections may result in a fire, particularly if there are combustible materials present or if wiring harnesses and shore power cables are in poor condition. On older outboard motors, the voltage regulator is a common source of boat fires, and the older they are, the more likely the regulator is to malfunction, potentially resulting in the loss of the vessel.

Galley fires often result from cooking accidents or unattended stoves and grills. When a fire begins in the galley, it can spread rapidly, putting the boat and its occupants at risk of injury or death. Whether the boat has a spacious galley or a simple deck barbecue grill, the chance of fire is great if one is not careful.

Preventing Fires Aboard Vessels

For marina owners, a single boat fire can result in the damage or loss of neighboring boats as well as docks, storage facilities, and more. While marina insurance serves as the backstop to the financial hardships of a marina fire, owners know that preventing fires in the first place makes sense. Marina owners should ensure that fuel cutoffs and fire suppression systems are in place and in good working order. Portable fire extinguishers should be within easy reach of boaters when moored in marina slips.

Training both marina staff and boat owners on fire safety practices is another good risk management step. Many marinas offer monthly or quarterly safety workshops, helping to give stakeholders the knowledge needed to avoid injury. Marina personnel should also conduct routine inspections of marina properties, removing flammable materials from potential fire sources and ensuring all electrical systems are in good shape. With this safety-oriented mindset and the protection of marina insurance, the chance of boat fires is greatly reduced.

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.