14 Dec Tips and Techniques: How to Deal with Ice and Snow

The experts at Starkweather & Shepley Insurance Brokerage know how to help boatyards, boat builders, shipyards, and vessel operators manage the risks of winter weather. Read on for some valuable tips from Account Executive Adam J. Phillips, AAI, on how marine business should deal with ice and snow.

It’s no secret that the winter of 2015 presented Rhode Islanders with snow, ice, and cold-weather conditions that we hadn’t seen in many years. Facilities that rarely dealt with severe freezing conditions found themselves quickly overtaken by heavy blankets of thick ice and snow. Even those facilities that combat ice on an annual basis found their bubbler systems were not up to the challenge, and in many cases suffered damage on par with facilities that had no such de-icing systems in place.

Account Executive Adam Phillips, AAI

Account Executive Adam Phillips, AAI

De-icing operations, which can be described as an art rather than a science, presents boatyards with a unique set of challenges. There is no magic solution or one-size-fits-all approach to preventing ice damage. Each facility has its own set of unique exposures, water depths, currents, water level and/or tidal variations, weather patterns, and installed structures—all of which require a custom approach toward mitigating any potential ice damage exposures.

Once ice and snow begin to develop it is extremely important to properly deploy de-icing strategies and equipment or the facility operator may be faced with an unwinnable battle. Prior to the start of winter, facility operators are encouraged to create an all-inclusive, written plan to manage ice and snow mitigation operations.

The plan may include, but is not limited to, the following:

Timeline and Checklist
-Equipment to be inspected, serviced and tested
-Parts to be inventoried; spare units should be on hand
-Staff trained on use and deployment of de-icing systems

Snow and Ice Removal Plan for Docks
-Plans should include methods to prevent excessive weight and improve walkway safety

Diagram of the Facility Outlying Deployment of De-icing Equipment

Task of Weather Monitoring Responsibility
-Identify weather triggers for equipment readiness and deployment

Pre-season Review of Historic Weather Patterns and Prior Freezing Conditions

Pre-season Review of Lessons Learned (including tips about which methods were successful and those that were not)

Ice Breaking via Yard Workboat & While Waterborne
-Inspect and test vessel
-Ensure hull of vessel is adequate to perform ice breaking operations.
-Install and inspect prop guard to prevent propeller damage from ice and engine overload
-Staff to be trained on proper use of vessel in ice breaking activities, use the vessel’s weight, not impact, to break the ice
-Consider use of survival suits, buddy watch system, and a shore-side watch with a contingency plan arranged with local fire and rescue

Cold-weather Safety Precautions and Policies
-Require the buddy system at all times when working near the water
-Establish a communications or check-in protocol
-Require appropriate clothing & Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
-Floatation required when working near the water or on boats
-Fall protection or lifelines utilized as appropriate
-Rescue equipment at the ready and appropriate for ice rescue (often will be stowed away for the winter or difficult to access due to stored boats)
-Monitoring/supervisory person is aware of work party participants, whereabouts, and makes periodic checks for well-being

The build-up of ice and snow, left unchecked, can lead to severe damage, which in many circumstances may not be properly insured. In addition to taking the proper risk mitigations procedures, it is important to know what is and what is not covered by the facility’s insurance policies.

Starkweather & Shepley Insurance Brokerage’s waterfront experience coupled with their market knowledge enables the company to provide specialized coverage and personalized service. Starkweather & Shepley employs insurance professionals with marine experience in placing insurance for boatyards, boat builders, shipyards, and vessel operators. Working closely with industry groups and insurance carriers, the company has successfully developed national programs for: ABBRAGARD, a program designed exclusively for boat builders and repairers available only to members of the American Boat Builders & Repairers Association; the Community Boating & Sailing School Program, offered exclusively to organizations dedicated to sailing education; the C-PORT Insurance Program, available to operators of quick response towing and salvage vessels; and coverage for members of the National Marine Charter Association (NMCA).