It is a sad reflection on our society that the rate of theft in all areas has virtually trebled over the last 10 years.

Paul WilsonTheft pay-outs currently represent more than 25 per cent of all claims monies paid by Club Marine, and the figure is rising.

This epidemic that is sweeping through our suburbs is having a major impact on the cost of all general and domestic classes of insurance.

To compound the problem, the global insurance industry is still in recovery mode after the September 11 terrorist attacks, as reinsurers decide how they will tackle what is now for them an untenable position. There is no doubt that policy conditions will be toughened up and rates will definitely be increased.

I can assure you all, that we as consumers are going to feel the brunt of the after-effects. So where does this leave Club Marine and you the boat owner with regards to the spiralling increases in the number of theft claims, as well as the cost of theft?

We at Club Marine have thought long and hard on how to solve this problem and, in fact, we have been trying to work it out for more than 10 years now - and there's no easy answer.

The problem is it's just too easy to re-birth a boat!

And that's basically what it boils down to. HIN's (hull identification numbers) have been introduced in some states but not in all. Why not?

The HIN concept is an obvious starting point in trying to combat the problem, but do you think we can get some sort of consensus between the states? Not likely!

It was only after extreme pressure from the New South Wales BIA, representing the largest retail boat market in Australia, that most, but still not all, manufacturers have agreed to now apply a standard version of the HIN to their products.

From an identification point of view, why should a boat be treated any different to a car? All pretty valid questions if you ask me!

A boat stolen in New South Wales can cross the border into Victoria or Queensland, be registered in that state, and then brought back into New South Wales as a legitimate boat. We know this, because we have been fortunate enough to catch a few of the low-life that carry out these acts.

The obvious first move should be the national take up of the HIN concept, followed closely by the establishment of a national HIN register making it harder for boats to be re-birthed interstate. Therefore, if a boat was presented for registration, the HIN could be checked against the national register to confirm its legality. If no HIN was present on the hull after specific dates, then questions could be raised as to its bona fides.

So what is Club Marine doing to try and stem the flow of theft? As from January 1, 2002 we will be applying to all new policies for trailerable craft as well as renewals for trailerable craft in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria an additional theft excess of $1,000 if the boat is stolen without there being a recognised anti-theft device fitted. That is an additional excess, on top of any other excess that may be applicable to that particular policy.

Chains and padlocks are no longer accepted as anti-theft devices.

The only other alternative we have at this stage is a dramatic increase in rates across all states and classes of boats. In this issue of the magazine, you will find a rather enlightening story on the effectiveness of some of the anti-theft devices that are available on the market. The disappointing thing for me is that under our own in-house testing, all of them were capable of being breached with varying degrees of difficulty.What is true through, is that all of the devices did take time, and in some cases involved a great deal of noise to remove, two things that will deter the majority of crooks.

At this stage, I can honestly say that there is no product available that will deter the professional thief. If a pro wants it, then it's as good as stolen.

So I urge all trailer boat owners to be vigilant and to protect your boats from theft. Let's make life just that little bit harder for those who want to steal what you have worked so hard to achieve.

Also in this issue we explore the waters of Papua New Guinea through the magic of Andy Belcher's underwater camera, we preview the 57th Sydney to Hobart race, test a not so old classic speedboat, pass on some handy hints on how to keep your trailer in top condition for the summer holidays and we take you behind the scenes in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Enjoy the magazine and remember that your safety is our top priority.

Paul Wilson, Chief Executive Officer, Club Marine Ltd.