Marine Survey Inspections and Reports

We haven’t discussed marine surveys in a while so here goes. It’s late winter here in Canada and as we head into spring we ramp up into the busy season for us marine surveyors. I thought that a few posts on the processes of the marine survey inspection might be in order.

A Marine Survey is an objective report on the condition and value of a particular vessel paying close attention to the structure, installed systems, sails, rigging and motive power components. Survey reports are subject to the condition and accessibility of the vessel at the time of the survey. This is an important statement because the state of the vessel, as presented can affect the depth in which the surveyor can go to test and evaluate the vessel and its installed systems. For example a hull inspection cannot be performed without the vessel being hauled from the water. Electrical systems cannot be tested without charged batteries on board or available shore power.

When performing inspections test methods used by surveyors are usually of a non-destructive nature. What this means is that the vessel in question will not be disassembled by the surveyor for access to systems or components. If minor disassembly is required such as the removal of an electrical distribution panel the owner may be asked to sign a release absolving the surveyor of any issues that may occur as a result of his or her actions.

Hulls and decks are inspected visually for condition and structural soundness. In the case of fiberglass or wood construction moisture levels are verified and measured by percussive sounding and electronic detection.

Electrical and electronic systems are tested by powering up only when authorized, and providing power is available. If not visual inspections of all accessible wiring, fixtures and equipment are performed.

Plumbing systems are inspected for leaks and wear evaluations are based on visual inspections and reported life of the components.

Mechanical systems, engines gearboxes etc. are inspected for leaks, static functionality and overall general condition. If possible the engine may be started and certain dynamic run up tests will be performed.

Interior joinery is inspected for appearance, condition and structural soundness.

If the mast is stepped at the time of the inspection, rigging and spars are inspected from the deck only. For a thorough inspection arrangements should be made to de-step the mast. Sails should also be made available for a full inspection as well.

A pre purchase situation starts with all of the above and may also include a full engine and drive evaluation. Engine compression and oil pressure may be checked. On gasoline engines spark pugs may examined for telltale signs of problems such as oil consumption and internal component degradation.

At this point a sea trial will facilitate a running inspection of all spars, rigging, sails and loaded run up and tests of the all motive power components.

Survey reports should be subjective, concise, detailed and include pictures that not only indicate problem areas but also give a good general description of the vessel being surveyed. The report should deal with appearance and cosmetic issues only when they affect either vessel value or safety related issues. Current safety standards and regulations should be quoted where applicable. Although many vessels were manufactured before current standards were put into place and compliance may or may not required by law it is always good safety practice to ensure that any vessel is maintained as close to current standards as possible. Insurance providers may require compliance with certain current standards as well.

Reprinted From “The Seaworthy Surveyor” Ontario Sailor Magazine

Original Article By David Sandford AMS®