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Expert Talk – Demystifying the Role of the Marine Surveyor

The marine surveyor profession is to a large extent unknown, and it still raises plenty of questions. So, we wondered: “Why not go straight to the source to find some answers?”

We’re lucky enough to have Felipe Díaz on board for this interview. With his 32-year-long wealth of knowledge of the marine survey field, there’s no one better suited to reply to our frequently asked questions about marine surveyors.


What’s a marine surveyor?

Admittedly, it’s a very vague term. So, let me try to come up with a marine surveyor definition:

“An expert who performs a certain action (mostly logistics oriented) at a given place and time, further to specific instructions provided by a customer.”

The result of their job is a document where all findings are recorded. This is the marine surveyor report, which outlines how the inspection is conducted and what its outcome is.


What’s the purpose of a marine surveyor?

Marine surveys are preventive, corrective and advisory by nature. The fact is a marine surveyor’s sheer presence causes people to be on their best behaviour.

Now, imagine a park where there’s a sign stating “Please keep off the grass”. Absent-minded people, naughty kids… may walk on it regardless. However, if a guard is posted there, the risk that happens will significantly drop.

The same occurs when a marine surveyor oversees a logistic process. Those involved will be all too aware that they have to do things by the book, and will act more cautiously.

A common misconception, though, is that a marine surveyor is an authority figure. Well, not quite. They are rather like notary publics attesting to facts.

Let me make my point clear with an example.

While inspecting a container stuffing, I may point out that more wood dunnage is needed. And the party performing the operation may ignore my recommendation.

I’d then note down that my instructions have been disregarded. Which will possibly result in the workers’ boss asking them to add more dunnage to the cargo. Or else…

So, yes, marine surveyors have indirect authority. Despite not being a legal party to the transaction and, as such, having no responsibility.


What does a marine surveyor do?

A marine surveyor’s duties depend on the customers’ actual needs and specific instructions. And we often have to help them define the job they require from us.

Say someone hires me to:
“Inspect some transformers that are being shipped to Doha.”

With such a vague request, several questions arise.

  • WHAT?
    Which specific service does the customer require: quality control, stowage and lashing…?
  • WHERE?
    At the harbour, in the factory…?
  • WHEN?
    During stowage and lashing, upon arrival at the harbour…?

I may well spend half an hour on the phone trying to decipher the scope of the job at hand!

Now, our services are required at critical phases of the logistics cycle. One of them being when risk transfers from the seller to the buyer.

Here’s another example.

A Polish buyer purchases a transformer from an Argentinian seller under CIF-Gdynia terms. This implies that, if something goes amiss while the goods are in transit, the shipper is responsible.

Since the risk will be transferred in Gdynia, it’s in the buyer’s interest to have a survey conducted upon arrival at the port. If the goods are found to be damaged, the marine surveyor report will be instrumental in holding the shipper accountable.


What are the different types of marine surveyors?

In general terms, there are two kinds:

  • Cargo marine surveyors, who inspect goods.

  • Hull & Machinery (or ship) surveyors, who deal with vessel’s hatches, holds, machinery, terminals, recreational boats…


What’s a marine warranty surveyor?

Short and sweet, they are marine surveyors for insurance.

At times, the risk to be insured is so high that an insurer allocates part of the premium to conducting a marine survey for insurance purposes.

In this case, the insurance policy will include a clause to the effect that coverage in case of damage or loss will be subject to the marine warranty surveyor’s assessment and report.

This gives marine warranty surveyors the legal authority that “plain” marine surveyors don’t have.

Back to my previous example, the cargo needing additional wood dunnage.
If the marine warranty surveyor’s advice isn’t heeded and something happens to the cargo in transit, the insurance company will be entitled to deny coverage to the claimant.

Not a petty thing. Because marine warranty surveyors are closely linked to project cargo.

In case you aren’t familiar with this term, it refers to large, heavy or out-of-gauge cargo requiring specialised stowage, handling and lifting.

Take an 8-meter diameter boilermaking part, 40 meters long, weighing 260 tons. The hazards associated with its transport are countless.

So, understandably, insurance companies are willing to invest in a marine warranty survey when insuring such risks.


What’s a marine appraisal?

Appraisal is a synonym for assessment. A marine appraiser job is to quantify value:

  • Before a claim happens (e.g., an insurance company assessing how much a risk is worth, or an individual looking to purchase a vessel).
  • After a claim happens (i.e., with a view to estimating the damage cost).


Which qualifications should a marine surveyor have?

You may be thinking you need a sea dog, a marine engineer or merchant navy captain. Well, there may be times when those skills aren’t suited to the job.
Take a wheat shipment where a quality control is needed. An agricultural engineer would be the right profile to conduct this sort of marine survey.

The point is to find a professional with a technical education that allows them to perform the tasks at hand. And to ensure they have accredited experience by requesting their CV.

Unfortunately, unqualified practice does happen in marine surveying. So, if you want to play it safe, hire your marine surveyors through a company like Claimar.


How much does a marine surveyor charge?

There’s not such a thing as standard rates for our services. Since the scope of a marine survey is so broad, prices may differ greatly. That’s why we quote on a job basis, once we have information on:

  • The risk.
  • The actual service.
  • The location.
  • The amount and its condition (for cargo).
  • The time.

I wish we had a price list, but it just isn’t feasible.

We hope Felipe Díaz has shed some light on what a marine surveyor can do for you.

Interested in getting to know another member of Claimar’s crew? Read our interview with Guillermo Zamora here.

We are Claimar, your Third Party Administration (TPA) management partner, skilled and expert in marine services.


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