$1.3m in claims not paid out after 1770 boat fire
EIGHTEEN months after the charter boat Spirit of 1770 caught fire and sunk, the owners are still waiting on the insurance payout.
The director and owner of Lady Musgrave Cruises, John Clayton, says the delay in payment of more than $1.3 million by insurance company QBE, which is managing the claim for Elders, has sent Seventeen Seventy's economy into a downward spiral.
In May last year, 46 passengers jumped for their lives when an engine fire spread though the vessel on a return trip from Lady Musgrave Island.
No one was injured due to the great work of crew and rescuers but Seventeen Seventy's economy has been hit hard.
Mr Clayton said QBE had used stalling tactics to slow the payment of money he's due after the fire.
The 83-year-old has had enough and plans to take the company to court to recover the funds to get the business back for the community.
"I will take them to the highest court in the country if I have to," Mr Clayton said.
"I don't want or need the money. I can walk away today.
"It is for the town."
Mr Clayton said the Seventeen Seventy community was hurting because there was no big boat to carry passengers to the island.
In peak times he said his business would bring in about $45,000 and hundreds of tourists a day.
"We have taken out thousands of tourists to the island over 23 years.
"Since we have stopped Seventeen Seventy is dead."
Mr Clayton, who owns the infrastructure on Lady Musgrave, has a boat ready to buy and another set for construction.
He said he was prepared to sell one of his two Lady Musgrave Island tourist-operation permits and had blocks of land up for sale to fund the case against QBE.
"I really don't want to do it, but I have put 23 years into this," Mr Clayton said.
"I just don't want to sit back and walk the dog.
"We are strong - we can fight this."
QBE Insurance Australia said the claim was taking longer to resolve than usual due to its complex nature and ongoing investigations by QBE and authorities.
"There are a number of pieces of information relating to the claim, which have yet to be provided," a spokeswoman said.
"This includes findings of an investigation conducted by a marine authority into the incident and confirmation of alleged criminal proceedings relating to the incident.
"Without such vital information, it is not possible for us to make a final determination which we have clearly communicated with Mr Clayton's legal representatives.
"QBE is committed resolving claims as quickly as possible and we share Mr Clayton's frustration that this matter remains open."
Mr Clayton's smaller boat, Discovereef, will be soon in operation at Seventeen Seventy.