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Surveyor Todd Duff taking percussive soundings on a boat bottom
Surveyor Todd Duff taking percussive soundings on a boat bottom

What to Consider in a Marine Survey

A marine survey can prove invaluable. The key is to know what type of survey you need, how to best prep the boat, the time required and what a survey report can offer. Several accredited marine surveyors throughout the Caribbean can offer boat owners and boat buyers answers to these questions from the benefit of their expertise and experience.

There are different types of marine surveys,” explains Jose Menoyo, surveyor at Sea Services, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. “One is a Pre-Purchase inspection, which is the most extensive. The Condition & Valuation inspection, which is generally the one most requested, is mainly used for financial and insurance purposes. Specifically, it’s very useful to insurance companies to determine if the vessel is an acceptable insurance risk. It will also include the valuation to determine the fair market value of the boat. The Damage inspection consists of an inspection that will help establish the cause of a loss and settle on the extent of the damage.”

 

Always ask a surveyor if they are familiar with the type of boat to be surveyed.

“There are some local surveyors who only generally survey the modern boats typically used in charter, and so they may have little or no specific knowledge of boats built using unusual materials, or boats built before the ‘French revolution’ hit the charter industry back in the 1990s,” explains Todd Duff, a surveyor who divides his time between the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hawaii. “If a boat is wood, or steel or alloy, then finding a surveyor with experience with these materials is vitally important. Ask them for a sample survey too. Most surveyors will be happy to provide this.”

 

What is the best way for an owner to prepare a boat for survey?

“Make sure it is clean and free of miscellaneous items,” answers Ciro Malatrasi, a surveyor who works out of Puerto Real (Fajardo area), on the east coast of Puerto Rico. “Paperwork should be on hand and available to present to the surveyor. If it is required to have the boat hauled out or to undergo a sea trial, the arrangements should be made and scheduled by the owner.”

 

How long does a survey take?

“It depends on the size of the vessel,” says David Duong, a surveyor based on St. Martin, FWI. “For example, I need one full day to inspect a typical 45-foot sail boat. It takes then probably another half-day to write the report. Length of time also depends on the vessel’s overall condition.”

Duff agrees and adds, “A 24-foot runabout can likely have a survey completed in a few hours. A 140-foot mega yacht survey could take up to a week.”

It’s not mandatory for a boat owner or potential buyer to attend a survey. However, says Menoyo, “the person paying for the service is more than welcome to attend the inspection. This will help me discuss and clarify any questions or concerns. One thing that is very uncomfortable is to have both the seller and the buyer around at the same time.”

 

Finally, what is the most common question marine surveyors are asked?

“Cost, cost, cost,” says Nikolai Bohachevsky, a surveyor at Small Ship Consultants, Ltd., in Antigua & Barbuda. “Owners and buyers all too often look at a survey as merely a logistical ‘hoop’ to jump through. However, a good survey report serves as a tool to highlight deficiencies and plan future maintenance pre-purchase, to determine the cause and scope of damage (particularly if a third party is involved in an incident) as well as study costs for a complete claim and to represent the owner’s interest during the repair process.”

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