Explaining insurance in the superyacht industry with SYIG

In today’s superyacht industry, taking care of insurance for yachts and crew is one of the most important factors for owners. Yachting Pages spoke to Eva Maria Karlsson of Superyacht Insurance Group (SYIG) to talk more about insurance in the superyacht industry, finding out some helpful advice, key information and some interesting examples.

When was Superyacht Insurance Group founded and how did it come about?

Superyacht Insurance Group (SYIG) is the trade name for Yacht and Crew Insurance Inc. and was founded in 2012. We previously operated under the name Crew Insurance Services, Inc. which was founded in 2003. The reason for the corporate name change was to incorporate that we also provide yacht insurance, (Hull & P&I), and not only crew medical insurance.

I used to work for a private boat club here in Florida, called Florida Powerboat Club and when leaving the employment I wanted to focus more on sales. I came across an advert in the local newspaper, wanting to hire health insurance agents. I acquired my Health and Life license in 2002 and my P&C license in 2007.

Living in Fort Lauderdale, the “yachting capital of the world”, I was exposed to luxurious and big yachts daily and like many crew I was an “international citizen”, (born and raised in Sweden), it was a natural and suitable fit for me to start working with the yachting industry. I truly enjoy being a part of the exciting yachting industry and meeting adventurous and outgoing people from all over the world!

In your own words how would you describe the business and how has it developed?

SYIG has been providing insurance solutions for the yachting industry since 2002. The company offers crew insurance and yacht insurance (Hull, P&I) under one roof.  We offer an extensive insurance portfolio of international and US insurance policies especially designed to suit the crew's unique situation and the yacht's programme.

In addition, we are able to arrange tailored insurance coverage for the yacht through most of the leading, top-rated US and European underwriters. Furthermore, we provide a wide range of additional crew insurance coverage, included but not limited to: travel insurance, disability insurance (income protection), life insurance and personal accident insurance (AD&D).

In 2002, we started selling strictly US domestic health insurance plans for US Citizen’s, but the agency has then evolved into working with the international market and the yachting industry as a niche. Lately we have also extended our insurance offerings to the commercial shipping industry, (merchant marines). With offices conveniently located on the Middle River in Fort Lauderdale and walking distance to Sunrise Harbour Marina, we are truly in the heart of the yachting industry.

What makes you different from your competitors? How are you unique?

Superyacht Insurance Group provides insurance coverage to both the crew AND the yacht, whereas most competitors focus on either coverage for the crew OR the yacht. This is a true advantage since we can avoid policy gaps and/or overlaps between the crew medical and the yacht insurance policy, making sure the client has sufficient coverage, or is not covered twice for the same benefits. 

SYIG is truly taking pride in our personalised and dependable customer service, 24/7/365. My cell is always on, since the clients are all over the world, in different time zones. We spend time with our clients, assisting from “application to claims” and going the extra mile, making sure they understand the policy. We visit the yachts and speak to the captains and crew on a regular basis, or invite them to our office.

What are the biggest challenges that you face in the superyacht industry at the moment?

The biggest challenge presently is “Obamacare”. Interestingly enough, it’s actually affecting the international marine industry, in that we now have to cope with tighter guidelines regarding time spent “in-and-out of the US” waters. Most underwriters require that the yachts spend at least six months outside the US in a 12-month period. It doesn’t matter that the yacht is registered outside the US and the crew are non-US.

Some underwriters can’t even provide coverage for US Citizens, or limit the coverage inside the US. Since the yacht’s programmes are usually changeable, it makes it really hard to place the coverage for certain yachts.

I’m dealing with a challenging “case” presently concerning a large US registered yacht with 10 US Citizen crew members. The yacht doesn’t leave the US much, just incidental trips to the Bahamas and back.

They don’t qualify for the international plans that are specifically designed for yacht crew, because they don’t spend six months per year outside the US. However, US domestic insurance carriers are reluctant to offer group coverage to the crew since the crew members are from different states.

How is business? Were you affected by the recession?

Surprisingly enough, the business hasn’t been affected by the recession. Insurance is a necessity even in bad economic times. Furthermore, with MLC 2006 being in effect as of August 2013, it’s more essential than ever for the owners to offer insurance, since they are financially responsible for the crew.

Do you have any top tips or advice regarding insurance for both the yachts and crew?

  1. Make sure you’re working with a prodigious and independent insurance agent, who has access to a wide array of options to suit your needs and the yacht’s programme. It’s a plus if the agent has strong experience in both yacht insurance (Hull, P&I) and crew medical, to avoid over- insuring or under-insuring.
  2. Make sure that the underwriters or insurance carriers are top-rated.
  3. Make sure to provide the insurance agent with accurate and detailed information regarding the yacht and its programme so that it gets quoted correctly from the start.
  4. Make sure the crew medical insurance coverage is PRIMARY to the vessel’s P&I insurance, so that work related accidents and injuries are covered under the medical, to avoid claiming on the yacht’s P&I insurance. It’s pertinent that the insurance covers crew 24/7/365, while working AND during time off as well.
  5. Make sure the crew medical policy offers sufficient benefits and coverage limits, especially important if the yacht comes to the USA, where the cost of the medical care is the highest in the world.
  6. Make sure to read the policy “fine print” and definitions before applying for coverage, please take notice of any benefit waiting periods and how pre-existing conditions are being handled.

Can you explain some common requests/issues you receive from clients?

Common issues are that it’s hard to predict the yacht’s programme for the upcoming year. The insurance requires that the yacht spend a significant time OUTSIDE US waters and it’s often hard to have knowledge of, since the programme can change rapidly.

Are there any bizarre/strange requests you’ve received from clients/prospective clients?

One bizarre incident included a prospective client, who was an older gentleman in his 80s. After seeing a picture of me, he developed a “crush” on me and calling me “foxy lady”.  He ended up having open heart surgery and wanted me to come and visit him at the hospital, even though we’d never met before and he was still only a prospect… a very strange request!

We offer excellent personalised customer service, but this was a little extreme and he wasn’t even a client yet!

What superyachts/big clients have you worked with that you can share?

The yachting industry is very exclusive and private and I’m not going to share my clients. My current book of business consists of yachts up to 250’, (bigger yachts are welcome!). One of my clients in particular is a very famous sports star, whom I have provided insurance to his yacht crew for years.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the nature of the marine industry; it’s very exciting, competitive and fast-paced. Additionally, I have the benefit of dealing with captains and crew from all over the world. It’s fun and exciting to meet and work with an international crowd. Conducting meetings and presentations on luxury yachts is irreplaceable! I also enjoy traveling to the yachting destinations and going to the boat shows.

Why do you enjoy boat shows? Which shows have you recently attended or plan to attend?

Attending boat shows is a great part of what I do. It’s important to “show your face” to other industry professionals and to your clients. I normally don’t work out of a “booth”, as I’m more effective “walking and talking” on the docks. Boat shows are very social events and I try and attend as many after hour networking functions and parties as I can.

The last boat show I went to was the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show at the end of October 2014. The next boat show will be the Miami Boat Show in February and then the Palm Beach Boat Show in March. I have also been to the Monaco Show, which is pretty spectacular, showcasing some of the largest, most expensive and luxurious yachts in the world.

Who would be your dream client?

A dream client would be to provide the crew medical insurance to a large fleet of vessels, perhaps providing coverage for 500 + crew members, or providing the yacht insurance (Hull, P&I) for a 400+ foot vessel.  

For more information, visit SYIG.

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