What is a marine survey?
A marine survey, in its simplest form, is an appraisal and inspection similar to that performed on real estate or other items.
For starters, if you are dealing with a reputable Yacht Broker such as me, he will guide you through the process. I know several marine surveyors that I will recommend as I've had experience with them in the past and I know their capabilities. I will not choose one for you however, as I don't want any suggestion of a conflict of interest.
There are several types of surveys but for the buyer, the Pre-Purchase Survey is the one you will want. It will be the most comprehensive type of inspection, and is usually requested by lenders and insurance companies when purchasing a used vessel. Condition and overall operation of the vessel will be examined. The value of the yacht will also be estimated by the surveyor.
A thorough inspection will not be rushed and will depend on the type of survey required based on vessel size, equipment and on-board systems. There may be additional services available such as engine surveys, oil analysis, galvanic and stray current corrosion testing, ultrasonic testing, moisture testing and other non-destructive tests. There may be additional charges for these and other services.
Well conducted surveys can provide good information on the vessels' condition, but they are not guarantees. The surveyor reports the condition in accessible areas only as it exists at the time of inspection.
Do I really need a marine survey?
If you are intending to invest several thousand of your hard-earned dollars in purchasing a boat, a marine survey may be the least expensive and most valuable tool you have to assist you in that purchase. A boat operator who knows the condition of his vessel is better prepared to handle adversity than one who isn't. The marine surveyor you hire to inspect the boat should have the knowledge and expertise to determine if it has been properly maintained and in safe condition. A prudent buyer should make his final acceptance of the boat subject to the findings of a marine surveyor.
Why should you have a vessel surveyed?
Most insurance companies and banks will require them on older vessels. They will need to know her condition and fair market value in order to finance and/or underwrite the vessel. Knowing her condition and fair market value before you purchase is also important. However, the most important reason to survey your vessel is for the safety of the passengers
This covers structural integrity, electrical systems, the propulsion system, the fuel system, other machinery, navigation equipment, miscellaneous on-board systems, cosmetic appearance, electronics, and overall maintenance as well as an out-of-water inspection and a sea trial
This inspection is performed so that the insurance company can determine whether or not the vessel is an acceptable risk. They are interested in structural integrity and safety for its intended use. Most insurance companies require a survey on older boats. They will also want to know the vessel's fair market value.
This inspection is performed to gather enough information to justify or determine the fair market value of the vessel. This is normally needed for financing, estate settlements, donations and legal cases
What to expect during the survey
We typically perform the survey in conjunction with the sea trial.
The surveyor will meet you, the buyer, at the boat early in the day. The owner is usually there as well as the Broker. He will begin with an overall inspection of the boat looking for anything obviously different. He will then begin his survey on a specific system of the boat; these include:
Cooling and heating systems,
Electrical systems; both AC and DC,
It is usually the engine he will begin with as he will like to examine it before it is started and gets too hot to touch. He will continue addressing each system in no particular order. He'll look at each system's component then turn it on to insure it works; such as lights, cooking equipment, air conditioning, everything. Some nondestructive testing such as sounding the laminate with a hammer, or testing with a moisture meter may be included.
And it's OK to talk to your surveyor and ask him what he is finding, just don't hover over him and get in his way.
Later in the morning we'll need to take the boat to a nearby yard to haul the boat out of the water to allow the surveyor to look at the bottom. This is when we perform the sea trial as well. You now get to operate the boat to make sure you like how she handles. The owner is on board to assist us.
Afterwards we lift the boat out of the water for about an hour and your surveyor checks the running gear, through hulls and hull for any damage or other problems.
After we are done with the bottom, the boat is placed back into the water and we will continue with the sea trial. Again you can operate the boat as much as you like. The surveyor will also take the helm to feel the boat and check her steering and performance. He'll also go below to check the engine while underway.
So by later in the afternoon, your surveyor has inspected the entire boat; he has either inspected or operated everything to his satisfaction so he can give you an objective opinion as what he thinks of your chosen boat. You'll know before the day is over if you have a keeper.
Oh, and by the way, it is customary to pay the surveyor on the day of the survey.
What should I expect in a marine survey report?
You are hiring the marine surveyor for his or her objective opinion of the condition of the boat and its value. You may not agree with their final findings in either regard, but you have benefited from their professional opinion.
The survey report will cover the areas inspected and include recommendations regarding problem areas. It will also include a current market value and/or replacement value estimate.
The marine survey provides a complete report on the subject vessel, and references complete identification of the boat (including year, make, model, hull identification numbers, and engine information and so on). The report also gives detailed information about the vessel including description of the superstructure and hull, fittings and equipment, electronics and safety equipment, electronics, galley, engines, electrical system, firefighting equipment, and fuel systems.
You should be aware of the guidelines a marine surveyor uses for his comparisons, such as: "The mandatory standards promulgated by the United States Coast Guard (USCG), under the authority of Title 46 United States Code (USC); Title 33 and Title 46, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), and the voluntary Standards and Recommended Practices developed by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) have been used as guidelines in the conducting of this survey. "
This tells you the exact information the marine surveyor used as a baseline for his comments and recommendations.
Also be sure you understand how the marine surveyor determined the market value and/or replacement value for the boat and what those values mean.