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What insurance do you need?
Apart from the obvious need to insure against loss due to sinking, fire, collision, grounding etc. the policy should cover negligence, theft and vandalism. You should ensure that you are covered for accommodation costs in the event of the barge becoming uninhabitable, especially if the barge is your only home. This can be restricted to a proportion of the contents value so read the small print.
Our previous Dutch insurers, Oranje, used to pay a large proportion of a surveyors charges but we have not found a UK insurer who will do this. If you use an insurance company from other than an English speaking country the policy will be in that language and certain things get lost in translation. For example our Dutch insurers translation of "excess" was "deductible" which we failed to understand the meaning of until we tried to claim for a stolen computer and discovered the "deductible" was more than the claim! When the excess was reduced to a sensible amount of £100, the premium increased to the extent that they lost our business. You need a small excess on the contents but can live with a large excess on the hull.
When we first purchased Harmonie in 2005 we requested quotations from several UK companies and none of them quoted a premium anywhere near the Dutch companies but in 2012, when we did the same exercise, UK companies were half the premium of the Dutch. This was partly due to the devaluation of Sterling since 2008 but that only accounts for a quarter of the premium so it pays to regularly check the market.
Which Insurance Company?
In Holland EOC and Oranje Verzekeringen are the two main insurers. Bother the above links now take you to EOC so presumably the two companies are now one. EOC (formally EFM) was the insurer of Harmonie when we bought her but refused to reinsure her as we were not Dutch or Belgian residents. Our broker put us in touch with Oranje who were quite happy to reinsure us. We do not know what the EFM policy is towards non-residents now.
In France the main company is Groupama. We have not obtained any French offers as we figured that all the Eurozone countries will not be competitive in Sterling terms.
The best UK offer we obtained was from GJW Direct in Liverpool. We had received good reports from other bargees of their response to claims and they were by far the most competitive and efficient to deal with both on and off line. The DBA have an agreement with Knox Johnson but we found that most companies will give you a discount off your premium if you are a DBA member. Others we have tried were Everard and Euromarine. We recommend you obtain quotes from all the above companies.
Survey and other requirements?
Insurance companies will require a regular survey and they usually have a surveyor who they approve of and use often. If you use a UK insurance company it is likely that they will have a UK approved surveyor but a local surveyor is usually going to be cheaper and provided he/she is suitably qualified then most companies would accept him/her. I have never actually met a female hull surveyor when crawling around under ships hulls but I expect they do exist!
We have always used Ydo Heijsman who is from Den Bosch in Holland but there is no shortage of qualified surveyors in all the maritime countries. The interval between hull surveys is normally seven years when the vessel must be slipped and an ultrasonic survey carried out. Insurance companies will normally accept the previous survey results and will also transfer any no claims bonuses which can amount to 25% of the premium.
If you are crossing the English Channel the insurance company will impose strict weather conditions for continued insurance cover otherwise you are only insured for inland waterways. The weather conditions are normally a forecast of a calm sea and no more than wind force 4. It can blow a hooley once you have sailed but if you sink you will not be insured if you sailed with a worse forecast.
Finally they will probably want to know where your winter mooring is and what the security arrangements are, especially if you are not on board during the winter.