Saint-Maarten Island in the spotlight at Nautic Paris Boat Show
On September 6, 2017 Hurricane Irma devastated Saint-Maarten island with 300kph winds and 380kph gusts. 1,200 boats were sunk or suffered serious damages both at sea and on the ground. Several catamarans with length of 15 meters or more were capsized. Many docks at the marinas were destroyed and the workshops installed along the promenade lost their own work tools.
For Saint-Maarten, an island whose economy heavily relies on tourism and, of course, on boating industry, the situation is catastrophic.
The financial losses for the marine leisure segment are disastrous. More specifically, the operating loss for the 68 enterprises related to the boat industry is estimated to be above 45 million euros while the losses in terms of infrastructures and equipment amount to around 10 and 12 million euros respectively.
Today, three months since Hurricane Irma blew into the island, what’s the situation for the boating industry?
There are still too many owners waiting for a report from their own insurance companies which will determine the amount of compensation they are entitled to. As for the yachtsmen who have not been paid yet, there’s a nasty surprise for them since the amounts proposed are expected to be far below the amount of money they actually need to repair their own boats.
At best, if they are covered by a complete boat insurance which includes hurricane disasters, they will be required to pay a deductible equal to 10% of the insured value. Then, an additional coefficient of age of around 10% per year will be applied on the property.
In practical terms, this means that, for example, in the case of a 7-year-old boat insured for € 200,000.00, its owner will be required to pay off a deductible of € 20,000.00 plus a 10% coefficient of age for every single year of the boat itself. However, the boat suffers from damages worth € 70,000.00 ( € 50,000.00 for spare parts + € 20,000.00 for repairs).
This results into a ridiculous compensation: just € 15,000.00 [ € 50,000.00 – € 35,000.00 (10% coefficient of age x 7 years)] to which should be added € 20,000.00 for repairs for a total amount of € 35,000.00. Further € 20,000.00 will be finally deducted from the total in the form of a percentage on the boat value.
Consequently, even if covered by a complete boat insurance, the unlucky owner will receive just € 15,000.00, a very meager compensation if compared with his real need of € 70,000.00.
Furthermore, many insurance companies have announced that they want to leave the region, now considered too risky. Others, on the contrary, reinforce their contract terms and natural disasters coverages, including boat securing in case of hurricane. In addition, many insurance brokers have announced a 35% increase in insurance premiums, whose current value is already twice what provided to metropolitan areas. The new conditions will inevitably result into serious troubles for chartering and yachting operators.
Meanwhile, the question of the management of both uninsured and misinsured boats remains unsolved. Both repairs and disposals will be so unsustainable that many boat owners will end up abandoning their own boat in a shipyard or docked, as it often happened in 1995 after Hurricane Luis.
As for the unrepairable boats, the problem is the space available at the local shipyards on Saint-Maarten. A multitude of boats which were seriously damaged by the hurricane is still piled-up in four of the main shipyards of the island, waiting for compensation while an equal number of uninsured vessels delay the release in water in general. Other boats are rotting in the bottom of the lagoon, by compromising their possibility to come back sailing again. All shipyards look for additional space in order to meet requests but only some of them will actually succeed in coping with the situation. A situation which is further exacerbated by the fact that the Sandy Ground’s Bridge was completely destroyed by Irma and reparation works will start only in the next 4-6 months, which seriously threatens the survival of the local enterprises. For the time being, the only chance to get across the lagoon is offered by a passage located on the Dutch administered area of the island.
Situation of the marinas on the French area of Saint-Maarten
Amongst the four ports located on the French administered area of the island, Marina Fort Luis is the only one which is currently functional with its 60 berths. The marina has announced that it would be 80% functional by the end of January. Marina de l’Anse Marcel has re-established 20% of its capacity. Port La Royale and Captain Oliver’s were, on the contrary, completely destroyed by the hurricane and their reconstruction remains uncertain. Port La Royale and its service areas are currently used for boat storage.
Hundreds of sunken boats still lie on the bottom of Simpson Bay’s lagoon, a closed area whose coastline is sprinkled with numerous houses. These wrecks represent a real threat for the environment in an area which is too wet and fragile. A resolution in full compliance with the traditional anti-pollution measures is urgent and essential.
How to help Saint-Maarten
Some days after Hurricane Irma, FIN got the island and promptly collaborated with Métimer – the association of the sea professionals of Sain-Maarten island – to assess the damage suffered by yachting operators and offer the best possible help. FIN also offered Métimer stand H1 B 01 at the last Nautic Paris Boat Show to facilitate fruitful encounters, especially with the international press. Both FIN and Métimer hope that the big groups of the boating industry will promptly act in support of the boating industry of Saint-Maarten.