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Online auction set for Sandy-damaged boats

Cooper Capital Specialty Salvage LLC is hosting a large online auction of storm-damaged boats.

Cooper Capital expects to list several hundred Sandy-damaged boats for auction on its website, which is updated daily, the company announced.

"We have boats ranging in size from 10 to 70 feet, but the vast majority is in the 20- to 40-foot range," Cooper Capital founder Ronald Milardo said in a statement.

Listed boats come from locations stretching from eastern Long Island to southern New Jersey. The continually changing inventories of boats, mostly powerboats, have been declared "constructive total losses" by their insurance companies, which have assumed ownership of the vessels.

Cooper Capital works with most recreational marine insurers, and the recreational marine market encompasses 90 percent of Cooper’s business. The company also has auctioned vessels damaged by Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes that struck Florida.

Hurricane Sandy made landfall Oct. 29 near Atlantic City, N.J., packing hurricane-force winds in a rising tide that created an unprecedented storm surge.

BoatUS, a national recreational boating association and a major recreational marine insurer, estimates that 65,000 boats were damaged by Sandy in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and areas along the Atlantic seaboard and Great Lakes region.

Milardo thinks that insurers will declare as many as 13,000 damaged vessels to be total losses.

As of early January, Cooper Capital had posted more than 200 vessels for auction on its website, with additions posted daily as insurers work through their backlog of case inventory. A listing typically lasts online 10 to 21 days before selling, according to Milardo.

As the 2013 Northeast boating season approaches, Milardo expects an uptick in constructive total-loss write-offs as private boat owners realize that their vessels cannot or will not be repaired in time for them to enjoy another summer on the water.

One distinguishing difference between the vessel damage claims Cooper Capital is handling post-Sandy and those of the earlier Southern storms is that the majority of damaged Northeast boats had been removed from the water for the offseason.

"A lot of them had been hauled out, with their drain plugs removed for winter," Milardo said in a statement. "So in the storm surge they were lifted off their cradles and literally sunk on land."

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