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Third-party liability, hull & Co - Which insurance makes sense for you?

You’ve bought the boat, you’ve found a charming mooring and you’re ready to get out onto the water. But what if it doesn’t all go to plan? 
Dirk Hilcken from Pantaenius explains which four insurances are the most important for boat owners. For him, liability and hull insurance are indispensable, but he also recommends insurance against accident and legal expenses.  Discover why:


Whilst there is actually no obligation to take out liability insurance in Germany, I strongly advise every boat owner to insure themselves against the claims of third parties. Even a little bump in the harbour, scratching the hull of the person next to you, can be expensive. As soon as a third party makes a claim against you - whether justified or not - your insurance provider will take care of the problem. If one of the passengers on board is injured, this is also a case for liability.

A special condition arises when the boat is on a trailer and is being towed. Trailers for sports equipment, such as boats, have a green licence plate and are covered under the liability insurance of the car towing the trailer. However, that’s only whilst the trailer is coupled to the vehicle! If the trailer is uncoupled, it is no longer insured under the towing vehicle’s policy. If, for example, a parked trailer starts to roll downhill and damages another car, the person who parked the trailer is liable. Trailer liability insurance, which is issued to the owner of the trailer, protects you from this.  Those who take part in regattas are obliged to show their liability insurance policy but also in almost all harbours, marinas and boat storage facilities, a boat can not be moored without this insurance cover. 

The countries around the Mediterranean Sea also require a valid third party insurance policy.

Conclusion: You can't sail a boat without third party liability.  


To be insured against damage to your own boat, you will need hull insurance. This covers total loss, partial damage, and also salvage and wreck removal after damage has occurred. The terms and conditions of the various insurances are very different; so make sure you do your research and read the small print. One such example and a good question to ask: Are the consequential damages of construction defects and wear and tear also insured?

If you buy a modern dinghy cruiser, for example, you should always choose a fully comprehensive insurance policy that insures the fixed value of the vessel within the framework of the fixed rate. Individual contract components, such as "new for old" and the proverbial "fixed rate", should always be explained in detail before taking out an insurance policy and the small print in the contract should be read very carefully.  

In addition to hull insurance, everything that belongs to the boat is also insured – from the VHF radio to the galley pots and pans. And the trailer should also be included in the hull insurance, at replacement value. You can't buy old trailers, and you really wouldn’t want one!


If you’re considering accident insurance, find out beforehand whether other insurance policies you may already have in place for your family provide the necessary protection. If not, it makes sense to take out accident insurance - especially for young, athletic sailors who move rapidly across the water in foiling boats!

Anyone who enjoys sporting activities with a larger crew should also consider taking out such insurance in order to be able to at least financially mitigate any injuries and pain when, for example, a finger is accidentally pulled through a block.  

Did you know, one of the most common claims against accident insurance is a fall from a ladder or a rack whilst the boat is in winter storage?


If you are buying a new boat from a shipyard or planning a complicated, elaborate refit of an old yacht, you should consider taking out insurance for legal expenses, and look for a policy that also covers contract law. When contracts are being concluded for large sums of money, involving many different aspects of work, it is advisable to take out cover against possible disputes. Once your new boat has been delivered and everything is working perfectly, the insurance can be cancelled after one or two years.


No sooner is the season coming to an end than the first shocking news arrives of boatshed fires and ships blowing off their storage racks in violent gales, burying the ship next to them. "Storm damage in which one's own ship affects others is an act of God," explains Dirk Hilcken.

"You are not liable for the damage your ship causes without your own doing. In that instance, it is a case for the respective hull insurance." And damage to one's own boat caused by a fire in winter storage is also a case for the hull insurance. "In such a circumstance, it is very important that not only the boat, but also the salvage is insured," emphasises Dirk Hilcken. "A burnt-out boat is a total loss that has to be salvaged and transported away as hazardous waste. If the salvage costs are not included in the hull insurance, the high psychological burden of losing one's own boat is compounded by the high disposal costs.”

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