Industry tries to calculate losses from hurricane

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The devastation Hurricane Sandy caused could result in losses for the marine industry never before seen.

The Coast Guard is asking boat owners to contact the command center with information about missing or derelict boats so it can get better estimates of the damage Sandy caused, according to the Associated Press.

"We can see it from the sky, but we know that's only a fraction of what we are looking at," Coast Guard public information officer Petty Officer Steve Lehman told the AP.

The potential for boating damage was huge. New Jersey had more than 163,000 registered vessels as of the second quarter of this year, according to the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey, a non-profit trade organization that promotes the recreational marine industry.

A 2008 economic study from the trade association estimated that about 25 percent of the state's registered boaters are in Ocean and Monmouth counties.

Kevin Kelly couldn't quite tell the damage Hurricane Sandy caused his 30-foot Wellcraft Sportfisher when he saw it last week. It was in the middle of Shrewsbury Avenue in Asbury Park, N.J., under a pile of about 30 boats entangled in power lines.

On Wednesday, he got the bad news: American Star is a total loss after the top was ripped off its tower and the engine compartment was flooded.

"It's a big mess," said Kelly, 50, who owns a custom apparel company and lives in West Caldwell, but keeps his boat in Highlands. "A good way to look at this is there is really little you can do. You are going to pull your boat out of the water and pray for the best."

The Coast Guard, industry organizations and insurers are still trying to get a handle on the extent of Sandy's damage. But some in the recreational boating industry say the boat destruction will be among the worst caused by a storm hitting the United States.

"The comment we've heard over and over is that 'We've never seen anything like it,' " Scott Croft, a spokesman for BoatUS, the nation's largest group representing and providing services to recreational boat owners, told the Asbury Park Press. "It's safe to say Sandy is going to surpass any other storm."

BoatUS, which also provides boat insurance, has had Sandy-related damage claims from Maryland to Maine and as far west Cleveland. But quantifying the damage is difficult, partly because there are still areas Sandy affected that aren't accessible to insurers, Croft told the news agency.

The Coast Guard is also helping owners find their boats and putting them in contact with salvage companies. The Coast Guard is overseeing the process to ensure that no fuel is spilled into the water, the salvage workers are safe and the boats don't suffer further damage, Lehman said.

"Quite a few boats will end up OK and will get their repairs done next winter," he said.

Other boats had more severe damage after the surge pushed them into larger objects such as docks and buildings, crushing their hulls. Still more that were left in boat slips sank because the storm surge left them no place to go but down.

Sandy carried Hans Kaspersetz's 26-foot fishing boat from his Sea Bright backyard about a mile away to a beach in the Navesink River. The storm left the boat with little damage, but looters ripped out its global positioning system, radio and fishing gear.

"I couldn't believe how they stripped the boat," Kaspersetz told the AP. "They were just eating it alive."

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