Acker Marine Survey Co.|
Thirty Years Of Integrity
Serving The Florida Keys
From Key West to Key Largo
Anthony Acker, SAMS® SA
ABYC Standards Certified Technician,
Principal Marine Surveyor
Dewey Acker, SAMS® AMS® - RET,
Senior Marine Consultant
The average boater never hears of a marine surveyor until someone, usually an insurance agent or lender, tells them they must pay for a marine survey of their vessel.|
Marine surveying, however, is a profession dating back to the early 1600's. Four centuries ago, when trade with the New World was beginning, many shippers of commodities found their cargo was failing to appear at its destination. They began to fear shipping their cargoes across the ocean, since sinkings, piracy and unusual disappearances were becoming a fact of life in ocean transport. The shippers petitioned the King of England for some form of insurance for their cargoes, which ultimately led to marine insurance. It also led to insurance fraud.
It did not take underwriters in London long to realize they were paying off on cargoes that never existed or went down on ships that never existed. In order to ascertain that there really was a cargo and a ship, they hired marine surveyors at the ports of embarkation to inspect the cargo and ensure that it, and the ship, really did exist.
Some less-than-honest shippers, who were down on their luck, would manifest cargoes of unsaleable items and send them to sea on vessels that were unseaworthy, knowing the cargoes would never reach the new world. As these losses rose, underwriters hired knowledgeable shipwrights and masters to inspect the ships prior to the release of cargo for shipment. The new experts were also called marine surveyors and they specialized in making sure the cargo risks would only be placed in seaworthy vessels.
The marine surveyor is still the eyes and ears of the marine underwriter and provides unbiased assessments of ships and/or cargo. But the profession has also expanded to include small craft, both recreational and commercial.
Surveyors are also used by knowledgeable boat buyers who wish to draw on the surveyor's expertise when buying a vessel. The surveyor will conduct an inspection to determine that the vessel is seaworthy and will make recommendations for improvement in the safety or reliability of the vessel.
Unfortunately, anyone can become a marine surveyor just by claiming to be one. No state in the union has a licensing or regulation procedure for the profession of marine survey. It is caveat emptor: Let the buyer beware.
There are just two legitimate American organizations issuing credentials: The Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS) and the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS). Membership in either organization affords the individual marine surveyor the right to list his or her accreditation after his name, such as AMS, CMS or SA.
Before a marine surveyor is accepted into membership in either of these organizations, he or she must have a track record of years of successfully serving as a full-time surveyor. There is rigorous testing and work is assessed by peers. The applicant also must be free of outstanding complaints. Once a surveyor earns accreditation from SAMS or NAMS, he or she must maintain a constant effort at continuing education to maintain credentials.
One of the most important qualities to look for in a good marine surveyor is a lack of prejudice. He or she should not show bias toward or be connected to any other marine industry business or profession. A surveyor should have no connection to any yacht broker, dealership, boat yard, marina or other marine service which might possibly benefit from the surveyor's recommendations. In addition to asking about credentials, talk to others in the marine industry -- your broker, lender, insurer, boat yard or marina.
The marine surveyor should inspect the vessel for its compliance with the U.S. Coast Guard's construction and equipment requirements. It should also be inspected to determine if it meets the safety standards of the National Fire Protection Association and the standards and recommended practices of the American Boat and Yacht Council. If a vessels meets all the standards, it will be safe.
Before hiring a marine surveyor, do your homework. Don't just shop for the lowest price. Get personal recommendations. Ask questions. Make sure your lender or underwriter will accept the work of the surveyor you choose. It's better to know in advance than find out after the fact. Remember, there are no stupid questions -- just stupid answers.
By DEWEY ACKER