Marine Surveys: Frequently Asked Questions
With a marine market that’s been tightening up for the past year, insurers have been requesting surveys with more frequency as well as narrowing the type and age of vessels they’ll insure. Having an up-to-date marine survey is your best bet for making sure that you get the best insurance coverage (and are most protected in the event of a loss).
To help explain the what and why of marine surveys, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:
What is a Condition & Valuation Survey?
A Condition & Valuation Survey is a detailed inspection of your boat to establish its baseline condition and value. It acts as an inventory of the equipment on your boat at the time of the survey as well as serving as confirmation of the condition of the vessel if there is a claim.
When should I get a marine survey?
It is always a good idea to get a survey as a condition of purchasing a vessel, just like you would get an inspection before you buy a house. A surveyor won’t pick up mechanical issues unless they are visually obvious but if there are safety issues or warning signs of larger problems they’ll be able to let you know.
Surveys are also often required in order to get insurance or financing, especially on a used boat.
Will my surveyor run and test my engine, electronics, and other equipment?
No. If you have concerns about the machinery, electronics, or other equipment on your boat you should have a mechanical inspection performed by a certified mechanic or a surveyor that specializes in mechanical inspections.
Will I have to start or move my vessel for the surveyor?
No. Surveyors only inspect they do not perform sea trials or testing of any equipment unless you are having a specialized mechanical survey performed.
How often do I need to get a new survey?
Normally you need a new survey once your last one is 5 years old. If you’ve done any major work to your boat we always recommend you get an updated survey that reflects the new condition and value, even if it’s been less than five years since your last survey.
For wooden vessels you may need to get a survey more often, and the survey will likely need to be out of water. Every 2-3 years is a common survey requirement for wooden vessels, though some specialty insurers will extend this to as much as every 10 or 15 years.
If you’re looking for insurance some insurance companies will be fine with a 4 or 5 year old survey but to access the most markets a survey done within the last 12-18 months is ideal.
Should I get an in or out of water survey?
We always recommend to get an out of water survey if possible as it allows the surveyor to inspect the condition of your vessels hull. Your annual haul-out is a perfect time to kill two birds with one stone and get a survey at the same time as regular maintenance.
For newer vessels an in water survey is often sufficient.
How do I choose who to do my marine survey?
Always makes sure that the surveyor you hire is accredited and experienced. There are no laws in Canada about who can call themselves a surveyor so it’s a good idea to ask questions like:
1. Do you have insurance in place that covers survey errors & omissions?
2. Are you a member of a professional society for surveyors?
3. What training and experience do you have to perform surveys?
4. How many surveys do you do in a year?
5. Have you surveyed my year / model of boat before?
Is there anything I need to do to get my boat ready to be surveyed?
You should make sure that your boat has been cleaned and that the engine room and other areas are easily accessible. It is also good to prepare any documents you have for the vessel regarding its registration and maintenance.
If possible, write down items like work you’ve done to the boat since you purchased it, serial numbers for your tender and engines, and hours on your engines.
Do I need to be there while the survey is being done?
Though you don’t need to be we highly recommend that you are there the entire time the surveyor is going over your vessel. This allows them to ask you questions and it gives you a chance to see what he’s looking at and for you to ask questions yourself about component condition and any recommendations that they make.
What can I expect a surveyor to do?
The surveyor may want you to be present the entire time they are surveying the vessel or they might prefer that you come at the end so that they can go over their findings and talk to you about your boat.
They will board the vessel and go through it inch by inch, taking inventory of the equipment on board as well as the general condition the vessel is in. You might be asked questions like what your maintenance schedule is like.
How much do surveys cost?
In our experience most surveyors charge around $10-20 per foot for a pleasure craft, plus travel if you’re in a remote area, but the exact amount varies widely by surveyor.
Do I have to do the recommendations?
For the most part, yes. Other than minor cosmetic issues, insurance companies will always want to know if the recommendations have been done and if they haven’t been, why. Recommendation completion may also be a condition of your insurance.
If you disagree with a recommendation that a surveyor has made you can always get a second opinion or discuss it with the surveyor. Having them remove an incorrect recommendation from your survey and issue a revised report is the best course of action so that it’s clearly documented the recommendation was not required.
Recommendations are one of the reasons it is important to use a certified, qualified, and experience surveyor as once a recommendation has been made, even if it is in error or not applicable to your type of vessel, it has to be addressed.
You should talk to your broker if you don’t agree with a recommendation or don’t think it is applicable to your vessel and they may be able to assist with speaking to the insurance company about removing the requirement to complete the recommendation. However, the best course is still to have the surveyor remove the recommendation or advise in writing that it is not required.