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Barges Escape Down River. Did Revenue Escape with Them?

Last week, more than a dozen coal-filled barges broke loose on a western Pennsylvania river. The runaways hit and damaged bridges. Motorists and train traffic were delayed while events unfolded and afterwards, while bridge inspections were conducted. Two barges sunk and spilled their cargo into the waterway. Tugboats and other types of vessels were called in to bring the wayward fleet under control.

Luckily, this isn’t an everyday occurrence. But if your risk management duties include insuring barges or cargo shipped by barge, there is a lot to consider. You and your broker can determine the types of required coverages, policy limits and the need for excess policies by reviewing the following questions:

• Where will the barges operate?
• What obstructions are present in the area of operation?
• What products will be transported?
• How high or low are the water levels?
• How many barges will be in tow?
• What types of barges or other equipment will be in use, and what is the value of each?
• How experienced is the captain?
• What is the size and experience of the crew?

In the Pennsylvania situation, various parties concerned (cargo owner, barge owner, towing company) will look to their insurance coverage to cover losses that likely will include the following:

• Value of the lost cargo. The accident may also affect the cargo owner’s supply chain. Can the coal be readily replaced? Does the firm have enough coal to prevent a business interruption until then?
• Value of the vessels, including sunken vessels and those that sustained damage.
• Debris removal expenses, including expenses for salvaging the sunken vessels.
• Retrieval expenses—vessels were hired to corral the barges as they floated down the river.
• Damages sustained to the bridges, including the railroad bridge.
• Other property damaged.
• Pollution expenses, possibly including environmental clean-up, third-party claims, and potential fines for natural resource damages.

Insurance is complex. The right broker, however, will have the breadth and depth of experience to help you navigate the nuances of your risk management journey. If you would like assistance in reviewing your current policies, contact a Hylant expert. We are here to help.