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Interview with Rob Stevens about Topsail Insurance Yachtsman's Travel Insurance

by Mark Jardine on 30 Nov 2016 30 November 2016
Rob Stevens talks to Mark Jardine at the Southampton Boat Show © Chris McGowan

We spoke to Robert Stevens, Managing Director at Topsail Insurance, about two of their key products; Yachtsman's Travel Insurance and Crewman's Travel Insurance, a package designed especially for employed crew working on board yachts, motorboats and superyachts.

Mark Jardine: First of all, could you describe what the products do and who they are aimed at?

Robert Stevens: The Yachtsman product is specifically aimed at people who are cruising on and off shore, and being able to cover them for their travel requirements, medical and cancellation. It's a product specifically for the yachting community.

Mark: Surely a standard travel insurance policy covers that kind of thing?

Robert: It doesn't. A standard travel policy often excludes cover for people who are cruising offshore. On many policies, especially the ones you get free with the bank, they will exclude waterborne activity completely. It's really important that you get the additional specialist cover that you need when you're onboard a yacht.

Mark: So do you find a lot of people who go for the policy have been unaware that they've basically been uninsured beforehand?

Robert: Completely. It's something that people don't have the knowledge about. With regard to what they are able to be covered for under their policies, it's really important to look at the small print. Look at those exclusions relating to your own yacht activities. Find out whether or not you're covered under the standard policies that you buy off the shelf.

Mark: Topsail have been established in the UK for 20 years. Do you offer this service overseas?

Robert: Yes, we offer our products to many nationalities worldwide and we've now launched our Topsail Insurance office in Australia. The travel is a new product for us in Australia, which is fantastic. We've been running the product for the rest of the world for some considerable time - 18 years ago is when we first started our Yachtsman policies. The activity that we're now bringing to Australia is the same product. Because of the licensing issues within Australia we've had to work at getting out licensees and work at getting the underwriters behind our activity within Australia. We're really pleased that we can now offer our Yachtsman's products to the Australian market.

Mark: Does your Yachtsman's product cover what a standard travel insurance policy would do, effectively giving both a Yachtsman's and a Standard Travel Insurance policy?

Robert: Absolutely! It is a standard travel policy. That will cover you for your trip within a country, outside of the country, just as you would get normally when you buy a travel policy. The important thing is that a Yachtsman's policy is that is covers your sailing; sailing offshore, covering you for racing, for all your activities on the water, inside and outside of your own territorial waters.

Mark: Talking of racing. Do you have products that cover sailors who are sailing abroad in events?

Robert: Indeed, the Yachtsman's policies that we provide also cover racing. Racing is included automatically within the policy that Topsail provide.

Mark: Now a lot people are going to have different types of racing. How would they go about talking to you? Is it just talking straight to a call centre or are they talking to people who will understand the kind of racing they're doing?

Robert: You will talk to a person - you can always discuss it with us. It's one of the most important things that we have with regard to Topsail. It is all about the individual communication that we have with our clients. It's really important for us that we're able to talk to them. We understand what they need, we understand what we can provide to them as a service.

Our Yachtsman's policies are available online - if you don't need to speak to anyone you can just go straight through the online process; apply online and choose the policy that's right for you. Just fill in the application form, pay online and it emails everything to you.

You don't need to speak to us if you don't want to. If you would like to speak to us it's not a problem. We are happy to go through what you need and explain the policy. It's important that you understand what you're buying.

Mark: What does the Crewman's policy provide?

Robert: The Crewman's policy is specifically for those people who are working onboard yachts and motorboats. We are targeting the markets, such as Superyachts, where you have employees on the boat, that includes people such as a skipper, potentially delivery skippers, people working as a crew. Under a normal travel policy your employment is excluded.

It's so important to look at your policy. If you have a travel policy and you are working make sure it's covered, because most of the time you won't have cover for your business activity. Under our crewman's policy we specifically cover 24/7. All the time you're under an employment contract you are covered for medical expenses, personal accidents and other requirements, such as baggage.

Again it is a travel insurance policy but it's specifically for those people who are working on board boats. There is an international shipping requirement called the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). It an international regulation with 80 countries signed up to it. It is effectively a mariners labour standard under which it requires that you have personal access to a level of health, sickness and medical cover. The Crewman's policy can be extended to include all of these things. For yourself and your employer it allows coverage to be in conjunction and correctly arranged to abide by requirements of the the MLC.

Mark: Is this a blanket policy or is it customizable for if you're a skipper, a deckhand or a chef onboard a Superyacht?

Robert: It is completely customizable in as much as we have three products; bronze, silver and gold. By choosing one of these you get a set amount of cover that comes with each one - you have the choice of what you need. Outside of that we're flexible enough on the Crewman's policy that if you come and talk to us and we can alter the product for you.

Mark: Once again, do you find that people working on yachts are unaware they won't be covered if the worst happens and they need medical repatriation?

Robert: Completely. It's letting people know that they need to understand what they need when it comes to their safety. It's financial security for medical, accidents and for illness.

Mark: Is the Crewman's policy a worldwide product?

Robert: Yes, In the USA and Canada we do have to look closely at the nationality of the policyholder and there are certain jurisdictions that we may not be able to cover due to Lloyd's underwriting restrictions, but for much of the rest of the world it's absolutely fine.

Mark: Thank you for your time Rob.

Robert: Not at all.

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