Florida boat rental services in jeopardy as new law prepares to take effect

Boat rental in Miami, Florida — Courtesy: Shutterstock — Image by: Tverdokhlib

When the new Boating Safety Act takes effect on January 1 and is implemented statewide in an attempt to make people safer throughout Florida waters, three words in the law could spell disaster for boat and jet ski rental businesses all over the state.

What’s going on: For the first time, Florida liveries must carry insurance that covers both the livery “and the renter” in the case of damage or loss. Insurance providers have objected such change.

Everyone agrees that those words will destroy the sector unless insurers change their minds or the legislature amends the law during the following session.

According to Peggy Mathews, a lobbyist for the American Watercraft Association, some insurers estimate that doing so would result in rates rising from roughly $1,500 per boat per year to more than $8,000 per boat. She made this statement to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Wednesday.

Why it’s important: According to industry sources, the majority of Florida’s active insurers decline to cover renters.

If those three words aren’t taken out of the statute, Florida’s waterways might appear much more deserted in the coming year.

Zoom in: Many of the nearby liveries that Axios spoke with weren’t even aware of the impending change.

Freedom Boat Club, which has numerous locations throughout the peninsula, told Axios that they are immune from the rule since they are officially a membership club rather than a livery.

The latest: In the hopes that new insurers will enter the market or that the legislature would eliminate those three phrases in its upcoming session, FWC commissioners approved compliance standards for the new law on Wednesday.

For the first half of 2023, the FWC will instead focus on education rather than enforcement, stating in a Marine Enforcement Alert that offenders “should be educated and warned about the new legislation.”

Rewind: After a rise in accidents over the years, the state Legislature approved SB 606 during the previous session to crack down on unauthorized boat charters.

The measure mandates new content in the curriculum of boating safety education courses that have been certified by the FWC as well as new issues to be included in livery pre-rental and pre-ride instruction.

What they’re saying: “Ninety-nine point nine percent of this is all good stuff that’s gonna do a lot to improve boater safety in the state of Florida,” said David Childs, lobbyist for the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

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