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Karl Newman, President
Sandi Henke, Communications Director     
NW Insurance Council    
Phone: (206) 624-3330/(800) 664-4942
Fax: (206) 624-1975

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Stolen Boats: Washington is fourth in the nation

SEATTLE - Summer is the time for boating in the Northwest and it's also high season for boat thieves. More boats are stolen across the nation in June, July and August than any other time of the year, with Washington ranking fourth highest in the nation in 2011. Only half of all boats stolen in Washington are recovered.

A new report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reveals that Florida had the most thefts, followed by California, Texas, Washington and North Carolina. The top five stolen boat types include the "jet ski" category, runabout, utility, cruiser and sailboat, in that order.

Because your boat is an investment worth protecting, NW Insurance Council urges boat owners to take measures to prevent your boat from being stolen and to make sure you have enough insurance to replace it if it is stolen and not recovered.

"In many ways, Boat Insurance is similar to Auto Insurance," said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president. "Your policy includes coverage for theft, damage to your boat caused by a collision and liability protection if you injure someone while operating your boat."

Homeowners insurance extends to smaller boats, such as canoes and kayaks and offers limited coverage, typically between $1,000 and $2,000 for damage to the watercraft. If you own a larger, more expensive vessel, consider buying a separate policy to provide more coverage.

In addition to insurance, methods of protecting your boat from thieves include marking and identifying both your boat and equipment. This identification will help police in the recovery effort if your boat and equipment are stolen:

  • Mark your boat and equipment with the vessel's Hull Identification Number (HIN), a 12-character serial number that identifies your boat.
  • Engrave your driver's license number in a hidden location on the boat as well as on its engine, ship-to-shore radio, depth sounder, compass stereo, trailer and other expensive components.
  • Take photos or videotape your boat, its HIN and equipment for documentation and identification.

NICB and NW Insurance Council also recommend the following tips to protect your boat from theft:

  • When docking your watercraft, lock and secure it to the dock with a steel cable.
  • Remove expensive equipment when your boat is not in use.
    Chain and lock detachable motors to the boat.
  • Keep title or registration papers somewhere safe and not in your boat when it's docked.
  • Disable your boat by shutting off fuel lines or removing batteries.
  • Use a trailer hitch lock after parking a boat on its trailer.
    Install a kill switch in the ignition system.

Be aware that stolen boats are often sold to unsuspecting consumers. You can avoid being victimized by recognizing common fraud indicators. Before purchasing a boat, make sure its HIN exactly matches the HIN listed on the registration and/or title. Also, carefully inspect the boat and review its ownership paperwork. Be alert for the following potential fraud indicators:

  • The boat has been rebuilt, previously reported stolen, sunk or recovered.
  • The title or proof of ownership is a duplicate issue or from out of state.
  • Registration numbers appear altered or are not uniform.
    The asking price is well below the market value.

For more information about NICB's Boat Theft Report, visit National Insurance Crime Bureau. For more information about Boat Insurance visit NW Insurance Council.

NW Insurance Council is a nonprofit, public-education organization funded by member insurance companies serving Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

National Insurance Crime Bureau is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through data analytics, investigations, training, legislative advocacy and public awareness.