"No single society, regulatory body, private organization, government authority, nor the U.S. Coast Guard approves, certifies, oversees, accredits or governs marine surveyors"
What does a marine survey include? A customary survey for pre-purchase or insurance purposes is a visual inspection from accessible areas, without removal of fastened panels, appurtenances, destructive testing, taking of core samples or disassembly of any kind. The survey will note observations on a particular date in time as to whether the subject vessel is sound (insofar as can be determined) and fit for intended use, with a focus on structural integrity (soundness) safety and valuation. The report will comment on exterior condition of machinery, mechanical devices, pumps, plumbing, or equipment (i.e. engine blocks, tanks, generators, CO2 detectors, smoke alarms, high water alarms, LPG systems, exhausts, heat exchangers, winches, mast tracks, spotlights, onboard household appliances, etc.) but will not convey interior condition of such appurtenances. Batteries will be looked over for proper positioning, securement, terminal protection and any evidence of case distortion. Hoses will be visually inspected for proper double clamp securement where attached to thru hull fittings, squeezed to assess exterior cracks or brittleness and evaluated for marine use. Hardware such as seacocks, engine mounts, cleats scuppers, deck hatches, life rails will be looked over for signs of wear or corrosion as well as appropriate dimensions to secure passengers, expel rain or sea water or provide means of escape. Keel bolts and chainplates will be visually inspected for signs of galvanic as well as crevice corrosion, weepage or wastage. Condition of internal stringers and bulkheads will be evaluated. Sails will only be inspected where visible or when laid out. If the vessel is hauled (recommended) the bottom will be visually sighted for distortion, damage, voids, blistering and then mechanically sounded for any suspect delamination or core saturation. Areas of concern will be evaluated using a sovereign quantum moisture meter. Running gear (shaft, ground plates, struts, propers, zinc collars) will be visually inspected for corrosion, wear, damage, distortion or pitting. The boat's electrical system will be visually inspected where accessible to evaluate any evidence of previous arching, proper routing, bonding and appropriateness of AWG wire sizes. The helm station will be evaluated to ensure compliance with captain's proper field of vision and navigation lights can be seen from intended distance when illuminated. An inventory of safety gear will be taken and recommendations made compared to what is required by federal law for the particular vessel (i.e number and type of fire extinguishers, life jackets, halon, pyrotechnic distress signals, ship bell or gong, discharge placards). An opinion of Market Value will be based on new and used vessel publications for the geographic area where the vessel is located. These publications will only secondarily support the surveyor’s personal opinion, experience and judgment, which will be the predominating factor in determining fair value. Recommendations will be based on American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) voluntary standards, United States Coast Guard (USCG) mandatory standards and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. Some of the USCG (33 CFR) Codes, NFPA Codes, and ABYC Recommendations that are in effect today may have been enacted after the vessel was manufactured. The recommendations thought to be necessary for safety will be addressed.
Important: Prior to any survey please ensure the vessel is clean and clear of any personal effects, gear, oil / water in bilge, furniture or other items which might block access or vision. The vessel will be surveyed as found, and only to the extent of what can be seen, what is accessible and what is limited. All manuals, maintenance log, receipts, registration, USCG Documentation Papers, and a copy of the previous survey should be onboard. Masts and spars must be moved to ground level. Rigging will not be inspected above deck level. What about Engine Diagnostics or a Sea Trial? A Pre-Purchase or Insurance Survey (priced between $15 - $22 per foot) does not include Sea Trial or internal Engine Diagnostics. A handful of Surveyors will offer "one stop shopping" with supplemental services beyond the standard agreement, for an additional fee: sea trials, oil analysis, thermal imaging, galvanic or stray current corrosion testing, ultrasonic testing, compression testing, or engine diagnostics, etc. Only a few surveyors within that handful are certified marine mechanics. From a value added standpoint, we recommend clients procure a Certified Marine Mechanic to perform all compression tests or engine diagnostics. The cost will be similar and results more conclusive. Your Insurance Carrier will likely manuscript a clause into the policy agreement that requires a vessel be looked over or tuned up by a certified mechanic every 1 - 2 years, upon initial inception of coverage, or upon the advice of your surveyor. However, the underlying intent of a Condition & Valuation report is to determine: Safety, Soundness and Valuation of the vessel, not internal condition of the propulsion system or handling characteristics in a Seaway. An Engine Survey and/ or Sea Trial by licensed captain is something separate from a "Condition & Valuation Report." Neither is customarily mandatory, however, an Engine Survey is always advisable.
Should clients attend their Survey? We especially recommend at least a representative be present to furnish access, and grant permission to board and conduct the survey. However, boats can present somewhat of an enigma, a distracted surveyor is in no one's best interest. In a perfect world the client would only approach the surveyor at the end of the survey to go over findings. In general, surveyors are happy to provide verbal comments (during the survey) but remember a survey is not over until the report is written, there is much to mull over prior to issuing a final verdict.
How long does the process take? Anywhere from 5 to 12 hours depending on the size of the vessel then another 5 to 8 hours in the office to thoroughly prepare the survey report. Larger vessels may take 1-3 days.
What is the difference between private societies that assist a World of independent marine surveyors? Five private organizations in the United States and many others World Wide assist independent marine surveyors. Overseas there is the International Institute of Marine Surveying (IIMS), Professional Yacht Designers & Surveyors (YDSA) Association, Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA), and The Society of Consulting Marine Engineers and Ship Surveyors (SCMS) in the UK. In Australia there is the Australasian Institute of Marine Surveyors (AIMS). Beyond that, there is also The Association of Indonesian Marine Surveyors in Indonesia (AIMI), as well as The Association of Marine Surveyors in British Columbia (AMSBC) Canada, Society of Consulting Marine Engineers & Ship Surveyors (SCMS) London, Swedish Independent Marine Surveyors Association (SIMSA) and more. Domestically, a few reputable organizations include: the United States Surveyors Association (USSA), American Registry of Marine Surveyors (A.R.M.S), Association of Certified Marine Surveyors (ACMS), Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS), and National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS). Within the United States, alone, NAMS is the oldest organization, established in 1962. Both USSA and SAMS appeared afterwards in the mid 1980s (1986 and 1987 to be exact), ACMS was established during the mid 1990s and A.R.M.S. came to be in 2008.
Beware:The unfortunate reality of the Marine Survey Trade is a lack of requirements, regulation and licensure that can create formidable challenges surrounding consumer protection. Marine Surveyors are cut from a diverse cross section of maritime backgrounds, which could include: boat captains, engine mechanics, boat builders, marine insurance specialists, professional or competitive sailors, etc. The underlying purpose of the marine surveying field relates to marine underwriting where inspection and appraisal services required by a bank or insurance company are furnished through independent firms. Most all Marine Surveyors are self-employed. They use various credentials, letters or terms (i.e. “Accredited,” “Certified,” or “Qualified”) to describe their operations. Regardless of what you hear or are told, these qualification terms represent training and certification through a number of private organizations (referenced above) that may claim to be the best or the only one. Private organizations are competing with one another to obtain your business and as such, a conflict of interest inherently exists. When choosing the right surveyor keep in mind all reputable ones will maintain independence above listed affiliations insofar as what defines qualifications, submit reports free from conflict of interest or prejudice and provide reasonable content concurrent with ABYC, NFPA and USCG standards.
Can a Bank or Insurance company require use of a particular marine surveyor or affiliation? No, In fact, In most states this action would be illegal and classified as a restriction of trade or interference with business. A boat survey should be performed by an independent (non-biased) professional so that no conflict of interest is present.