Top 5 Insurance Tips When Traveling with Your Gear
By: Aylene Villarin
May 12, 2021
Traveling is part of your job, we’ve put together an easy list of things you should consider when travelling with your gear internationally to protect your camera.
Imagine the following scenario: A Director of Photography is at the airport waiting for his flight to South Korea. He’s hoping to somehow cross the demilitarized zone into North Korea for a documentary film he’s working on. As his carry-on luggage is being scanned at LAX, a TSA agent asks him to open up his Pelican case for inspection. The TSA agent finds his camera, camera gear – camera bag, lenses, lens hood, lithium batteries, and a small tripod.
The TSA agent quickly inspects each item and confiscates the batteries and tripod. The DP is furious. He can’t do anything but listen to the TSA agent explain why airline passengers are prohibited from travelling with certain types of equipment.
Eventually, the DP arrives in South Korea safely. The next day, he and a group of local filmmakers manage to smuggle their way into North Korea. During the short 2-hour shoot, the DP drops his camera and lens and cracks the lens.
What, if anything, is the DP able to claim under his insurance policy?
This is a tough question to answer. It would depend on the types of policies he has and the exclusions that are listed in those policies. In general, most insurance policies have an exclusion for Government Seizure or Destruction.
A TSA agent is legally able to confiscate your camera equipment and if your insurance policy excludes Government Seizure or Destruction of property, your insurance policy would not be triggered. This means that in the above scenario, the DP would not be able to file a claim to replace his confiscated gear.
In addition, The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which is a division of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, prohibits American citizens from doing business with governments, companies, and even individuals in certain foreign nations. Since North Korea is included in the list of U.S.-sanctioned countries, the DP’s lens that was damaged in North Korea may also not be covered under his insurance policy even if his insurance policy has worldwide coverage.
To avoid the same pitfalls that the DP above suffered, here are our Top 5 Tips to keep your gear safe when travelling internationally:
- Check the U.S. Department of Treasury’s website for the list of sanctioned countries - If the country you’re travelling to is listed, chances are, your equipment is not insurable while you’re there. There are some exceptions to this rule, however, such as getting OFAC clearance from the government for government-approved travel. If that is the case, be sure to contact your insurance broker/agent prior to your trip to notify them that you’ve received clearance to travel to a U.S.-sanctioned country.
- Contact the airline(s) – Since every airline may have their own rules and regulations, it’s important to reach out to them to clarify which types of gear are allowed on the plane and which are prohibited. At the end of the day, the more informed you are, the better your chances are that your gear won’t be confiscated.
- Do extra research before travelling with your gear – There are a ton of videos and articles online that can help you decide which types of equipment are likely to be seized by TSA, so make sure you know what those items are. Just remember that it can still be up to the discretion of that individual TSA agent to determine whether or not your gear poses a threat, so be smart! If that extra-long tripod looks like it could be used as a weapon, it may be a good idea to leave it behind.
- Be organized – When packing your equipment, be meticulous about your gear organization. Break down your gear to make it easier for TSA agents to inspect it. Not only will this reduce the likelihood that it will get damaged during inspection, but it may also legitimize the purpose for your travel and help convince the TSA agent that your equipment is not dangerous. In addition, make sure to carry on the expensive stuff. If it’s hard to replace or the replacement costs are high, keep it in close proximity to you at all times.
- Insure your equipment properly – Don’t rely on your homeowners’ policy to extend coverage for your gear when you’re using it in the field or travelling with it. Chances are, your equipment is no longer covered the moment you take it outside your home.
Contact an insurance broker who specializes in production equipment insurance. The type of policy you should inquire about is called an Inland Marine Equipment Floater policy. Review the policy with your broker and ask as many questions as you can. The more you understand the policy and any exclusions that may apply, the better prepared you will be when you travel with your gear.
If you have any questions about your gear insurance while travelling, please feel free to give the friendly entertainment insurance experts at Athos Insurance a call at 626-716-9800 or contact us via our online customer service team. We’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Author, Aylene Villarin
Aylene joined Athos shortly after Katherine Wong founded the company in 2012, and has been an integral part of Athos’s growth and development ever since. Aylene’s diverse and robust experience spans across a multitude of services including underwriting, marketing, client management & retention, and business operations. She now serves as Athos’ claims analyst and manages the Underwriting Team, focusing on entertainment-wide insurance solutions for complex production risks.