Everything You Wanted To
Know About Marine Surveys
So, you have decided either to buy your first boat or have decided
to upgrade to a larger boat and either your bank or insurance company
has said the magic words “Marine Survey”. In this article
I will attempt to dispel some of the myths and fairy tales that you have
heard or possibly will hear regarding this subject.
To begin with, many banks financial institutions and insurance company’s
want a survey performed by an “accredited” marine surveyor.
Some “first time” boat owners want a marine survey performed
because they realize that they are new to boating and want a professional
What is an “Accredited” Marine
A Marine Surveyor is a person who by virtue of their experience or training
is considered a subject matter expert in the field of boat or seagoing
vessel inspections and appraisals. There is no official singular or governmental
organization that certifies, registers or qualifies Marine Surveyors.
Anyone who tells you that they are a U.S. Coast Guard Certified Marine
Surveyor will be telling you a fairy tale. The US Coast Guard does not
and never has approved or certified Marine Surveyors.
Many Marine Surveyors are “accredited” by the professional
organizations that they belong to. Most of these organizations set stringent
professional expectations of their membership and in some cases will bestow
qualification titles such as “certified”, “accredited”
or “registered” upon the members. Regardless of what you hear
or are told there is no one organization that is any better than the other.
There are typically four major national organizations that Marine Surveyors
belong to or are members of. All four have very rigid membership requirements
and all are very good at promoting professionalism within their
ranks. Most Marine Surveyors are members of at least one of these and
some may be members of two or more. These organizations are as follows:
The Association of Certified Marine Surveyors (ACMS)
U. S Surveyors Association (USSA)
National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS)
Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS)
Types of Surveys:
There are several different reasons to have a marine survey performed.
These typically are:
Pre-Purchase: where you the perspective owner, hire
a marine surveyor to conduct a survey and tell you the general condition
and value of the vessel.
Insurance Survey: where the insurance company wants
information and inspection on the vessel to determine if it’s an
acceptable insurance risk.
Appraisal Survey: where the bank, financial institution
or legal entity wants information and appraisal to determine the condition
and fair market value of the vessel.
Damage Survey: where the insurance company or claimant
wants to determine or estimate the costs and extent of damage or repairs
and in some cases determine the probable cause of the damage.
Many Marine Surveyors are self employed or may work as contractors for
companies associated with the marine industry. Regardless of the employment
or affiliation the surveyor should be qualified to do the job at hand.
Length of time in the business is not always indicative of a qualified
or good marine surveyor. A good rule of thumb is to find one who has been
in the business at least two to five years.
Do not be afraid to ask for a copy of the surveyor’s resume or
qualifications and references before hiring the surveyor… after
all your probably going to take a leap of faith dependant upon this persons
ability and skill. The end result could be as painful as hiring a bad
Choosing a Surveyor:
Your insurance underwriter or financial institution can NOT require you
to use a certain surveyor or a surveyor who is a member of a particular
organization. This is classified as a restriction in trade or blackballing.
The decision to hire a particular surveyor is yours and yours alone. If
you’re paying for the survey then it’s your choice. Certain
organizations keep a “vanity” list of approved surveyors in
which the surveyor has paid to be included on the list. You should be
aware that inclusion on this list does not guarantee the surveyors qualifications.
Also, you should be suspicious of anyone who insists
you use a surveyor who is a member of a certain organization. This action not only reeks of a conflict of interest but in most states forcing you to use recommended or "only" surveyors is illegal! Remember, the decision to hire a particular surveyor is yours and yours alone.
A good marine surveyor should be:
- Independently qualified
- A member of a professional survey organization
- Use the latest information, tools and technology
Conduct the survey and issue reports based upon ABYC
“American Boat and Yacht Council”, NFPA “National
Fire Protection Association” and US Coast Guard safety and inspection
guidelines and standards.
Last but not least you need to understand that the surveyor works for
who ever is paying the bill. That is why it is particularly important
to select one that you are comfortable with.
If you’re still feeling a little uneasy about choosing and hiring
a surveyor try asking around the marina. My experience has been that other
boaters are always willing to help steer you off the rocks !
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Updated: September 3, 2014