Are you Covered for Orca Impact Damage?

As marine insurers for over 195 years, we’ve helped to protect our customers from a lot of different circumstances over the past few decades and the recent instances with orcas are no different.

Following the increase in the threat of orcas on boats since July 2020, we have been monitoring the instances. As a result of this, we now cover damage caused by orcas under our impact damage clause in our insurance policies. It’s crucial to keep up to date and to constantly assess our policies to ensure that they’re as relevant and in-depth as possible for our customers.

According to Dive Magazine, there have been over 250 boats damaged by orcas and three instances have sadly resulted in the boats sinking. Since starting in, primarily, the Mediterranean Sea and surrounding areas, near the Strait of Gibraltar, reports are now starting to appear around Scotland, with orca contact with a yacht occuring in the North Sea in early June 2023. It’s feared older orcas from the Mediterranean have taught younger orcas to attack ships, with this message appearing to spread far and wide.

Our customers need not worry; we’ve got you covered, but it’s essential that you check your own policy is up to date and includes impact damage, particularly if you plan on travelling in the Mediterranean Sea or any other areas where instances have been recorded.

To date, we have received numerous claims as a direct result of orca damage and the Head of Claims at GJW Direct has been helping to deal with these developing instances:

“Instances, where orcas have come into contact with vessels insured with GJW Direct, have been few and far between and certainly not something we see every day. However, in light of recent events and the news stories as a result of these occurrences, we would like to remind our customers that their vessel is covered if an orca should come into contact with their boat.”

At a time of year when many boats will be considering travelling south during the coming months, it’s important to know how to prepare for these situations:

  • First and foremost, make sure you plan ahead for your trip, check news reports and stay up to date on recorded instances in the area you’re planning on travelling to
  • Consider using a copper antifouling paint, rather than black as research has shown that black appears to increase the likelihood of an attack whereas copper reduces it
  • Ensure you have an emergency steering solution on board
  • Check your insurance policy covers impact damage.


Expert advice in the event of orca contact

In the event of coming into contact with an orca, The Crusing Association has recommended a few things that you can do to help protect yourself and your boat, as much as possible:

  • Disconnect autopilot to avoid damage and let the wheel/tiller run free. Keep hands away from wheel or tiller to avoid injury;
  • Stop the boat, de-power and drop/furl sails;
  • Contact the authorities on VHF 16 or by phone on 112. If you receive no response on channel 16 then use the telephone or in the approaches to Gibraltar try the shipping control channels ‘Tarifa Traffic’ on Ch10 (or Ch67 if busy) or ‘Tangier Traffic’ on Ch69 (or Ch68 if busy);
  • Keep a low profile on deck to minimise the interest to the orcas
  • Keep a firm hold when moving around to prevent injury in the event of ramming;
  • Take photograph or video evidence whilst keeping a low profile. Make a note of location co-ordinates and timing of the interaction along with any other relevant details including the behaviour of the orcas for future reporting;
  • After the interaction ceases wait for several minutes to allow the orcas to move away from the area before any interest is re-gained by moving off.

Reports have shown that orcas seem to be less interested if the boat is stopped, but they do seem very interested in a boat’s rudders, so ensuring you have an emergency steering solution with you is an important precautionary measure to take. The best course of action appears to be to wait until the orca loses interest, to remain calm and have your safety equipment to hand. As long as you plan ahead and you’re prepared, there’s nothing to stop you continuing to enjoy your boating adventures.

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