By Chris Richmond
For July 2022 WorkBoat Magazine.
Whether you are interested in purchasing a new vessel or have owned the same boat for years chances are at some point you will need a marine survey. Depending on the circumstances and who is requesting the document the survey you receive can vary greatly.
In terms of insurance, when purchasing a new vessel you will almost always need a survey in order to get an underwriter to provide you with coverage. And don’t try to use the seller’s pre-listing survey, because the underwriter most likely will not accept it. The surveyor is working for the party paying him or her to perform inspection, and underwriters want that surveyor to be working for the client who is purchasing the boat. That is why a pre-purchase survey is in your best interest.
Also known as a condition and value survey, this will be more comprehensive and the surveyor will have your best interests and concerns in mind. You do not want surprises after you have purchased the boat and a condition and value survey will provide more detail on equipment, amenities and will provide a list of recommendations of areas that need to be addressed.
Generally, insurance companies will accept a survey that is within two years old. One thing that companies always ask is if the survey recommendations have been completed. Outstanding recs are not always a show stopper, however. Depending on the severity of the recs you may be able to delay addressing them for a while. If you do have some that are significant and could affect the safety of the vessel, see if the underwriter will still provide coverage but no navigation. You can then have insurance on your vessel while she is laid up and problems are being addressed.
Should you have an accident and the insurance company gets involved, then the adjustor will most likely request a damage survey. The surveyor becomes the eyes and ears for the insurance company and is tasked with assessing the extent of damage to the vessel and attempting to determine what happened and why. This becomes very important when the adjuster decides on the payout of the claim – because the surveyor will assist in determining if the claim is covered or not.
A fit for trip survey can be requested by an underwriter to determine if a vessel is sound enough to make a voyage from one port to another. We had a client who was in the midst of a refit. The vessel needed to travel to another yard in a neighboring state to complete the job. The underwriter wanted some reassurance that the boat was capable of making the trip, hence the call for this type of survey.
The survey is one of the most important documents that an underwriter will review for your boat. If the insurance company requests and pays for the survey, don’t expect to see the complete document. The company owns the survey and most likely will not give it to you. This can save you some money in the short run but if you want to shop your boat to other markets you will need to pay for a new survey. If you have a surveyor you like, stick with him or her. He or she will be familiar with your vessel and will be more efficient in future surveys, saving you money. And finally, have a conversation with your surveyor before they step on board your boat to make sure you are both on the same page with what you are asking them to report on because you don’t want any surprises after they are done.