Marine surveyors are skilled, detail-oriented professionals. But they are also human and can’t be expected to be infallible.
The issue is that, if they miss something while conducting their inspections, you may end up suffering dire consequences.
In this article, we’ll explore 5 frustrating reasons why a surveyor may cause you financial loss. But, before digging into them, there are some important points you need to know about the role of a marine surveyor.
Which tasks do marine surveyors perform?
Marine surveyors are known for their versatility. They put their technical skills and expertise to good use by:
- Overseeing shipbuilding.
- Appraising the value of a vessel.
- Monitoring salvage operations.
- Supervising the repair of damaged boats.
- Determining the cause, nature and extent of a loss on behalf of an insurer.
- Bearing expert witness in court.
Regardless of the assignment at hand, what’s implied in every contract is that marine surveyors will perform their job with reasonable care, skill and diligence, based on the circumstances of each individual case.
Taking that into account…
How can you suffer a financial loss due to a surveyor’s performance?
We’ve identified 5 scenarios in which hiring a marine surveyor may make you feel like you’re losing money.
1. Vague description of the extent of the job.
For a surveyor to perform their duty, it’s essential that you define at the outset the extent of the work to be conducted and which points are to be excluded. And this applies to all sorts of surveys.
As our colleague Felipe Díaz explained in an interview we conducted in December:
Say someone hires me to: “Inspect some transformers that are being shipped to Doha.”
With such a vague request, several questions arise.
Which specific service does the customer require: quality control, stowage and lashing…?
At the harbour, in the factory…?
During stowage and lashing, upon arrival at the harbour…?
It’s thus of the utmost importance that you give specific instructions to surveyors when you commission them. Failure to do so may lead to disputes if your expectations exceed their understanding of the job to be performed.
2. Wrong timing.
Knowing your incoterms and discerning when risk passes over from seller to buyer is a must when you trade internationally.
You need to make sure the surveyor is in the right place at the right time. So, if you’re at the receiving end of a consignment, you should arrange a survey when the actual transfer of risk takes place.
Say you’ve purchased goods under CIF terms. It would be in your interest to have your cargo inspected upon arrival at the port of destination.
Otherwise, if the surveyor inspects your consignment once it is delivered to your facilities (i.e., after handling and haulage), you may have missed your chance to file an indisputable claim with your freight carrier.
3. Failure to follow a marine warranty surveyor’s recommendations.
If your activities entail a significant amount of risk, your insurer is likely to have included a “warranty” clause in your insurance policy.
This implies that your marine operations will require assessment and approval by an expert marine warranty surveyor (WMS).
If there’s some damage or loss caused by your failure to act on the WMS’s instructions, there will be a breach of the warranty and your insurance company will be entitled to deny coverage.
4. Failure to choose the right category of surveyor.
Surveyors may oversee all sorts of marine operations:
- Cargo loading and discharge, which may differ greatly depending on the nature of the goods (e.g., from grain to oils and chemicals)
- Draught surveys
- Condition of ocean-going vessels
- On/off hire
And the list goes on. It’s your responsibility to appoint a marine surveyor with the right training and experience to meet your specific needs.
Remember that surveyors pledge to perform their duty with the reasonable skill and care of a competent surveyor, based on the circumstances of each case.
5. Negligent assessment.
To err is human, and surveyors may also make poor decisions or commit an oversight.
Let’s look at two examples:
- A boat takes on water.
The surveyor is commissioned to inspect the vessel and do all it takes to prevent it from going down. He reports there’s no imminent danger and decides to take no action. The boat ends up sinking due to the surveyor’s failure to take remedial action.
- A freight forwarder hires a surveyor to perform a loading and securing survey.
The surveyor advises that the vessel’s trim and list are “undesirable”. However, the report states that the cargo’s properly loaded, stowed and secured, and no corrective action is recommended.
As a result, part of the cargo is lost overboard during the journey.
In these cases, you’ll be experiencing a financial loss due to the surveyor’s poor performance.
Can you claim for surveyor negligence to recover your losses?
To file a claim for negligence, you’ll need to prove that:
- The surveyor owed you a duty of care.
- There was a breach of contract (e.g., failure to detect deficiency, insufficient inspection, negligent assessment of value…).
- You suffered a loss.
You won’t be able to claim if you expected the surveyor to perform duties that go beyond their scope, such as:
- Providing warranty against faulty design or latent defect.
- Ensuring suitability of the vessel for a given purpose.
- Guaranteeing compliance with any national or international standards or regulations.
Remember the surveyor’s job is to comment in good faith on what’s accessible for assessment at the time of the survey, and to report on the results of their examination.
Avoid disappointment and losses by letting Claimar arrange your marine surveys. We’ll commission the right professional to help you determine the extent of the job at hand. Find out more about our survey coordination services here.