5 Tips for Choosing a Marine Surveyor

on June 23 | in Uncategorized | by | with 1 Comment

Regardless of where you are in Florida, you’re likely not more than a stone’s throw from a marine surveyor. Florida is the boating capital of the United States and there are more boats per square mile here than anywhere else in the world. South Florida, particularly, represents the largest concentration of recreational boaters in the world.  This enormous concentration of boat owners is the catalyst behind the community of mechanics, tradesman, and boat dealers which flock to South Florida to make a living.

Choosing a marine surveyor in Florida is a challenging decision.  Odds are, during the course of your research, you will run across several providers in your immediate area who appear qualified. While there may be a significant pool of candidates to consider, a marine surveyor who appears qualified is actually very different than a marine surveyor who IS qualified. A professional marine surveyor is someone who makes their living carrying out extensive inspections of recreational and commercial vessels, and while it’s important to maintain a host of credentials and certifications as testament to a specialized skill-set, there is no substitute for experience. If your goal is to hire a marine surveyor who will exceed your expectations, consider these five tips.

Choose someone who knows how to build boats

There’s no two ways about it – a marine surveyor who is a current or former boat builder will know every component of a boat better than anyone else.  There is a huge difference between someone who has a Captain’s license and someone who is intimately acquainted with the production and manufacturing of boats. Marine surveyors are responsible for evaluating everything from engine and hull condition to the safety and reliability of electrical systems, which means you are relying on their professional experience with those systems to make decisions about quality, dependability, and safety.  You would be hard pressed to find someone who knows every facet of a boat’s capability better than an experienced boat builder.  While there is no requirement for a marine surveyor to have experience in building boats, do yourself a huge favor and work with someone who does.

Evaluate how often they perform surveys

There’s nothing wrong with having a part-time job, but when it comes to preparing a meticulously crafted marine survey you are better off working with someone who goes through the process day in and day out. Part-timer’s who have spent less than 10 years working in the marine industry simply aren’t qualified to carry out the job. Working with a marine surveyor who isn’t involved in the industry on a daily basis can ultimately affect the thoroughness of the finished survey document.  There is no substitute for experience in the marine surveying industry and desk jockey’s just don’t cut it.

Additionally, it is important to establish the integrity  of the surveyor and survey process.  In the industry, a “drive by” surveyor will offer a discounted rate for a survey which is fast and barely sufficient for purchase of an insurance policy.  To an experienced surveyor a “drive-by” survey is not an option for your own protection.  Should a catastrophic accident or failure of the vessel occur, “drive-by” surveys can be dismantled in court easily and both liability and/or expense transferred to the owner.  An experienced surveyor will know this and never compromise thoroughness to save time or minimal expense.

If you’re commissioning a marine survey to purchase a boat, or to perform an insurance valuation – it’s important to work with someone who “knows the drill” and is capable of thoroughly examining a vessel.  More importantly, work with someone who performs marine survey’s regularly in your area – as environmental conditions can impact the types of problems which occur most frequently.

Gauge a marine surveyors skill set

Would you hire a contractor to work on your house sight unseen? Probably not. When hiring a marine surveyor to perform an evaluation of your vessel, it’s important to get a sense of their skill set and previous experience before commissioning them.  Consider the qualities that define a competent marine surveyor:  technical proficiency, experience, and trustworthiness.  Those are traits which don’t exist in 95% of the U.S population, let alone most tradesman in the marine industry.  In order to properly gauge a marine surveyor’s skill set, it’s important to ask about their experience in the industry, their career prior to becoming a marine surveyor, and their approach to running a business.  Most marine surveyor’s are independent and have not been surveyors their entire life.  Aim to hire a marine surveyor who has a background as  a marine mechanic, marine electrician, boat builder, professional mariner, or marine insurance adjuster.  Attention to detail is a key trait of an experienced marine surveyor, which means that previous technical jobs which require tremendous focus, patience, and proficiency often serve as an excellent background.

Learn about the surveyors mechanical background

There is just no way around this one – a highly qualified and experienced marine surveyor will have a mechanical background to some degree.  Whether it was working on engines, installing electrical systems, or fiberglass construction/repair – it’s important to work with a marine surveyor who truly understands the components of each system on board a vessel.  Would you trust a surgeon who isn’t fully versed in anatomy?  Definitely not. Would you trust an automotive mechanic who only knows about engines and doesn’t know much about transmissions?  Absolutely not! When it comes to qualifying a prospective marine surveyor,  learn as much as you can about their background and technical proficiency with the systems on board your vessel.

Ask for a sample of their work and references

This is somewhat of a no-brainer, but many boat owners or sellers who commission a marine surveyor skip this important step in the qualification process.  Not all marine surveys are created equal and it’s perfectly acceptable to request a sample of someone’s work.  Professional marine surveyors should be able to provide you with a “mockup” survey so you know what to expect.  If the sample survey is extensive, thoughtfully crafted, and clearly demonstrates profound attention to detail – you’re probably talking to an experienced professional.  If the sample is lacking, basic, and doesn’t strike you as well written – keep the search going.

Asking for references is also extremely important.  A professional marine surveyor should be able to provide you with several references that you can contact directly.  While you will still be talking to a complete stranger, it’s an opportunity to ask about the surveyor’s service, professionalism, and capability.  If a surveyor can’t provide you with several references, odds are you’re talking to someone who hasn’t made a significant impression on their clientele, or just hasn’t been in the industry long enough to build a client base. References are an opportunity for you to get a sense of consistency about a marine surveyor’s track record of performance – if you can identify a pattern of behavior which exudes trust and credibility – you’ll save yourself alot of stress by avoiding someone who isn’t committed to their craft.

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