BoatU.S. response teams cope with Katrina

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The BoatU.S. Catastrophe Response Team has been forced to adopt a new set of post-storm recovery operations with Hurricane Katrina, BoatU.S. said in a release yesterday.

BoatU.S. Marine Insurance has teams in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana and is working with local salvors to recover vessels as quickly as possible, but the biggest challenge facing them is getting access to heavily damaged marinas

Unlike past storms where Carroll Robertson, senior vice president of Claims for BoatU.S. Marine Insurance, said her teams could usually find a habitable staging area, this is not the case with Katrina.

"With Hurricane Andrew, our team could go to Ft. Lauderdale to file paperwork electronically, re-supply, provision and then get back in the field. With Katrina we've needed to be completely self-sufficient from the start,” she said. “There simply are no staging areas with the necessary infrastructure. The affected coastline is a narrow corridor hemmed in by forest and the Gulf, the roads are filled with debris, and the bridges gone in many places. Simply moving around is a challenge."

Robertson expects that some vessels, such as those on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, La., will need to be recovered and removed via a waterborne route, as roads are impassable or under security restrictions. The team has several barge and crane companies contracted to assist with the task. Recovery activity on the north shore of the lake is already underway. Repairable boats may also have to be trucked considerable distances to unaffected repair facilities.

Robertson says that contacting insureds has been difficult as many have evacuated the area, and asks that all BoatU.S. insureds call as soon as possible at 800-937-1937, or go directly to and file a claim online.

Jim Schofield, manager of the BoatU.S. Cooperating Marina Program, says 23 marinas have been destroyed or damaged.

Jerry Cardarelli, vice president of BoatU.S. Towing Services, reports that the TowBoatU.S. ports directly in Katrina's path - Biloxi, Miss.; Pascagoula, Miss.; and Mobile, Ala. - largely weathered the storm by removing towboats and personnel to safe ground, but the Biloxi office disappeared and the owner's home is destroyed.

As of today, all of the towing service's Gulf ports, including Dauphin Island, Ala., and Perdido Key, Fla., are fully operational.

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