Marine Surveys 101

(a primer)

How much does it cost?

With the cost of boats in some cases exceeding the price of a home, buyers are encouraged to use the services of a surveyor to look through eyes other than your own, particularly if this is a boat you “must have” or is “a cherry in disguise”. The money spent on a survey is well worth it and is an impartial look at a floating object.

In all cases the survey is the property of the party commissioning the survey and good business practice dictates you instruct the surveyor in writing regarding the number of copies to be made and their distribution.

A Marine Survey

The physical inspection of a vessel and a written report of its condition and/or value at the time of survey.

Pre-purchase survey (Buyers’ Survey)

The comprehensive inspection and report. This document will usually include a sea-trial and an inspection of the vessel in and out of the water. Generally it includes the operation of all the vessel’s systems possible and an assessment of their operation. On sailboats the rig is inspected from deck to masthead. Prudent buyers may decide to use more than one surveyor-one for the hull and another for the engine(s) and/or rigging.

Generally the overall condition of the vessel is reported per the BUC System with a determination of the boat’s Market Value and approximate Replacement Cost. Outboard-powered vessels are valued separately showing values for the boat, motor(s) and any trailer.

If a yacht broker is involved in the sale of the vessel, the listing sheet or other sales information the buyer relies upon should be supplied to the surveyor. He or she will note equipment listed that may not be aboard or does not work properly. Any offer to purchase a vessel should be submitted “subject to an acceptable survey”. This provides the buyer the option of declining the purchase or negotiating a different price if necessary. Alternatively, the purchaser can request the seller to correct certain deficiencies before the deal is done.

Deficiencies are determined when the vessel or its systems fail to meet accepted standards set by various authorities.

Photos usually accompany the written report. Some surveyors charge extra for this service.

Insurance Survey (Condition & Valuation)

A static inspection (no seatrial). Depending on Underwriter’s requirements this inspection is done in or out of the water and generally does not include the operation of the engine(s) or vessel systems. Sailboat rigs are inspected from deck level only and sails are not unfurled or removed from their bags.

The report includes all of the vessel systems, a list of deficiencies and a list of recommendations for their correction. Generally the overall condition of the vessel is reported per the BUC System with a determination of the boat’s Market Value and approximate Replacement Cost. Outboard-powered vessels are valued separately showing values for the boat, motor(s) and any trailer.

After the Underwriter reviews the survey the vessel owner is usually advised certain deficiencies must be corrected within a certain period of time or before coverage is effective. When the deficiencies are corrected the Assured usually testifies (by written or sworn statement) to that fact and that testimony forms part of the insurance policy.

A follow-up inspection by the surveyor is usually not required.

Deficiencies are determined when the vessel or its systems fail to meet standards set by various

Photos usually accompany the written report. Some surveyors charge extra for this service.

Financing Survey (Condition & Valuation)

This survey is similar to an Insurance Survey. It provides the Lender with the market value of the vessel to be financed. This price may be different than the price the Buyer is willing to pay.

This type of survey may also be called a Seller’s Survey. This is used when the Owner wants to sell the boat and needs an idea of the value and deficiencies, but usually there is no requirement to correct any deficiencies.

Sellers should not expect Buyers to rely completely on a survey performed for the Seller. Buyers should hire their own surveyor.

Damage Survey (Damage Assessment and estimated repair costs)

This survey is generally prepared for Insurers or occasionally prepared for an Insured if he or she disagrees with the adjuster’s findings. This report may include a short summary of the boat and her systems plus her market value, but primarily is an in-depth report regarding the claimed damages.

As part of the report, the Insured and other involved parties are interviewed. Insurers are interested in cause and this must be included in the report and all damage done to the vessel.

The surveyor may sometimes oversee the repairs.

Photos are always included in this type of a report.

Appraisal Survey (Valuation only)

A cursory inspection to provide approximate condition and equipment aboard. This inspection is not for insurance purposes or a safety evaluation and provides a less detailed description of the boat and equipment.

Appraisals are generally used for estate settlements, probate, divorce settlements or charitable donations. Appraisals are suitable for paying Customs Duty or when an owner wishes to include them on a financial statement as an asset.

The final word
Most surveyors do not employ destructive testing. If observation of a section or component requires the removal of permanently attached panels or hatches, they will probably not be removed. If it is necessary to open a blister, this is usually done with the Owner’s permission. On wooden boats fasteners will not be removed and core samples will not be taken on other types of construction. The types of inspections can be done, usually at increased cost, and with a clear understanding that this constitutes “destructive testing”.

The survey reports on the vessel’s condition and/or value at the time of inspection. The surveyor is not responsible for equipment or component removal, additions, deterioration, damage or other changes after the inspection has taken place.

When a surveyor attends a vessel, the Owner is responsible for providing copies of all registration documents, and if electronics, safety gear, dinghies or tenders, and other equipment is to be included in the report and valuation they must be on hand at the time of survey.

A surveyor can only report on the things he sees and may include items as “reported but not sighted” if circumstances warrant this statement.

To determine if your surveyor can do the right job for you, ask for a specimen report and a resume. The good ones will not hesitate to provide you with references and their curriculum vitaes.

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