Marine Surveyors

(Why do you need them and how do you choose?)

Few of us would embark on the process of buying a house without arranging for a survey to be carried out. So it goes without saying that if you are choosing a boat, the same applies. It is also normal for insurance companies to insist on a survey before they will insure your boat and if your prize possession gets damaged you may need a survey before it can be repaired.

There are many specialist marine survey companies, most of which have comprehensive websites. They may list the various associations they are members of, so just to clarify the situation, here are some of them.

  • YDSA (Yacht Designers and Surveyors Association), an established professional association for independent designers and surveyors of small craft.
  • MECAL (International Marine Consultants)
  • IIMS (International Institute of Marine Surveyors)
  • IAMI (International Association of Marine Investigators)

Here are a few details of what you can expect Marine Surveyors to do.

Surveys can be carried out on most accepted boat construction materials including steel, aluminium, GRP (glass reinforced plastic), FRP (fibre reinforced plastic), timber/plywood and ferro-cement. The surveys will test for thickness in the case of aluminium and steel and moisture content in the case of GRP/FRP. Full and comprehensive reports will be provided including suggestions for rectification.

What types of survey are on offer?

CONDITION: Pre-purchase surveys will cover the vessel as a whole and will provide information on the shell, hull, deck, superstructure and their components, as well as installations of engineering, electrics, gas, plumbing and rig. These surveys may also include Osmosis inspections – a detailed examination of the external underwater area of the hull for osmosis and other types of gel coat blistering. Sea trials can also be carried out and are an opportunity to set the sails, test the engine and evaluate the vessel's systems under working conditions.

DAMAGE: The damage will be assessed and any implications on non- visible parts or equipment will be noted. Repair schedules may be provided if required.

VALUATION: A valuation survey may be needed for a variety of reasons, including insurance, probate, divorce etc. The report will cover a full description of the vessel and its contents, together with an evaluation of the current market price.

CERTIFICATION: You may find that a boat survey company is an accredited surveyor for particular types of boats or organisations. For example, they may be authorised to carry out Compliance Examinations on behalf of the MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency), to enable vessels to be certified under MCA codes.

ENDOSCOPIC INVESTIGATIONS: These allow the condition of very restricted areas to be accessed and assessed without the inconvenience of dismantling.

LITIGATION: Reports sometimes need to be compiled as witness in a legal action.

MACHINERY, OIL AND FUEL ANALYSIS: Fuel and oil samples can be analysed to detect faults such as diesel bug. The oil analysis will also give a clue as to the internal condition of the engine or gearbox.

How do you choose a surveyor?

"Spoilt for choice" might be the phrase that comes to mind when trawling through the detailed websites of marine surveyors, so how do you choose the one that suits you? Here are some pointers:

  • Find out whether they have experience with the type vessel you are considering.
  • Find out what experience they have and when they were established.
  • Find out whether they are fully insured.
  • Ask to see some samples of reports on similar vessels.
  • Look at testimonials and reviews from customers.
  • Make sure they have Terms of Business and Survey contract.

This is just a basic guide to get you underway. At the end of the day it comes down to your choice. There are no hard and fast rules except for:

  • Do your research.
  • Read all the small print.
  • Get several quotes.
  • Don't go for the cheapest option just because it is the cheapest.

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