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As The Cruise Industry Rebounds, Independent Contractors Face a Growing Need for Special Insurance

If you own or operate a business that caters to cruise or passenger ship customers, your products, services, or activities are of significant benefit to the shipowner and critical to the whole “cruise experience.” Following a crippling year, the worldwide cruise industry is poised for a post COVID-19 rebound that is expected to generate $23.8 billion in 2021 (a 96.2% increase over 2020)[1]. To make trips more attractive and help recover lost revenue, many ship operators are investing heavily in their floating cities to expand activities and offerings, thus creating an enormous market for concessionaires, who provide such services as:

  • Entertainment (Producers, Directors, Make-up Artist, DJ's, Dancers, Musicians, etc.)

  • Celebrity Chefs/Cooking Instructors

  • Fitness Instructors

  • Casino

  • Retail

  • Production (Videographers, Photographers, Wedding Planners, etc.)

  • Technical Support- Software-Hardware

  • Youth Activities

  • Medical

  • Security

  • Port Lectures

  • Art Auctions

  • Shopping Programs

With Opportunity Comes Risk and the Need to Protect Your Business

Cruise ship accidents, mishaps or criminal activity can happen anytime, anywhere, and to anyone onboard or offshore during cruise activities and excursions. If an illness, injury, or death happens to a passenger by an act, default or omission of a concessionaire or its employees, your business, not the shipowner, may be held liable.

In fact, if you read the fine print of your contract, Terms and Conditions most likely state that the cruise line is not responsible for any actions by third party vendors that may result in injury, illness, accidental death, data breach/cyber fraud or loss of products and/or cargo. To fill this gap, your business needs coverage both on and off the vessel, for short-term or full-time contracts, and for any and all employees.

Who and What is Covered By The Ship’s Insurance Policy?

The cruise industry is governed by Admiralty Law, which is unique to activities on the high seas. Generally speaking, employees of the cruise line who qualify as crew members are covered for injury, illness, or death under the vessel owner’s Protection and Indemnity (P&I) or Hull and Machinery Policies (H&M). However, there are many workers who do not qualify as crew members.

A person who spends less than 30% of his/her work time on board a vessel or fleet of vessels under common ownership or control does not qualify for crew member status. Many of these contract employees move around from cruise line to cruise line on a succession of different short-term jobs, and thus fail to meet the 30% qualifying rule. In that case, they are considered concessionaires and are not covered under the ship’s insurance.

In light of all the COVID-19 related lawsuits filed against cruise lines last year, operators are taking extra precautions. As a third-party vendor, you will most likely be required to provide a marine insurance package policy that addresses all the variable risks associated with working within the cruise industry – either aboard or ashore. Having the right coverage in place is critical as an unexpected event like a theft, natural disaster, fire, data breach or accident can have a devastating effect on your business.

What You Need To Protect Your Business

All businesses need to be protected, especially when you operate on a large ship in the middle of the ocean with thousands of customers at any time. Given the myriad of risks inherent in this industry, independent contractors need just as much, if not more, protection from lawsuits, injury, damage and/or loss of business or wages. Acquiring the proper marine insurance is critical when a claim arises.

At the very least, independent contractors are contractually obligated to carry liability and medical insurance, however, that leaves a wide berth for risks not covered. The only way your business can be fully protected is with a custom policy designed specifically for supernumerary crew and small groups of independent contractors while they are working on board cruise or passenger ships.

Independent Contractors/Concessionaire Insurance policies can either be on an annual or short-term, basis or can be customized for multiple trips and multiple ships. Coverage includes first party medical, personal accident, death, repatriation to your home country and sick wages. Importantly, your policy will pay your medical expenses no matter where in the world your accident or illness occurred. Furthermore, your policy will protect your business from lawsuits by covering claims brought against you by a third party for bodily injury or physical damages.

Whether you run a shoeshine business onboard a commuter ferry, operate a large retail operation onboard a cruise ship, or you and a crew provide services to the cruise industry, your coverage will be specific and unique to you and your business.


Rahn & Associates has over 30 years of insurance experience and deep knowledge of the cruise/marine industry. Please contact us for a free consultation so we may discuss your needs and develop a customized, cost-effective policy that will protect you while you are under a cruise line/ship’s contract.

Contact Rahn & Associates for a free 15-minute consultation.


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