Who (or What) is MarineSurveyor.com?

MarineSurveyor.com is a directory website. It has the largest and only International database which includes credentialed and affiliated marine surveyors from multiple organizations all over the world, and the best search tools to find them. It is resource both for anyone looking for a marine surveyor, but also for marine surveyors and the things they need for their practice.

We are a resource for information about the practice of marine survey and the disciplines of the profession. Spend some time with us and you’ll find we are always adding technical articles and information to help our marine surveyor community and the boating community as a whole.

MarineSurveyor.com was founded by Don Robertson back around 1995 and was then known as Don’s Marine Marketplace. In his 25 years building the site, he connected to hundreds of resource links and organizations and tried to put them in one place. Don was ahead of his time. In 2021, a year after his passing, we took over and we are hoping to bring his vision into the 21st century and beyond.

MarineSurveyor.com is NOT a forum. Anything we publish and the organizations we connect to, are professionals in the boat industry or their specific discipline. This website and its family of websites is owned and operated by Geoff Grainger, AMS® 1202, a SAMS® Accredited Marine Surveyor. Information published on forums is often incorrect, not credible, and occassionally dangerous advice. We always recommend consulting with a professional in any aspect of boating.

What is a Marine Surveyor?

“It all depends”…a favorite phrase of any marine surveyor.

In my practice, I favor the phrase, “Objective voice of the boat.” A consultant who is reporting the facts…just the facts, and then being an advisor based on those facts and findings.

A marine surveyor to a boat buyer is like the home inspector and appraiser for a home purchase, wrapped up into one. The practice of marine survey covers many disciplines, and some surveyors specialize.

The services they offer may differ since most come from marine service backgrounds and they may have competence or expertise in a specific area. But another general analogy is that they are like your general practice physician. For a buyer or an owner, they’ll perform a thorough physical on the boat and alert you to anomalies or deficiencies, then direct you to a specialist to look deeper into any bigger concerns or issues.

Beyond that, the practice of marine survey goes into may specialties including commercial inspection and appraisal, damage claim investigations, wood boats, and cargo inspection. Some offer focused inspections on engine or coatings (paint). Most also offer simple valuation / appraisal services for estates, divorce, or donation.

Most marine surveyors are associated with either the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS®), or the National Assocoiation of Marine Surveyors (NAMS® / NAMSGlobal®), which are both International organizations who oversee training and ethics for their prospective members. There are competent marine surveyors who are unaffiliated, but most insurance companies and banks prefer credentialed surveyors for good reason.

Why get a Marine Survey?

Bring Out Another Thousand – If you haven’t heard that cliché a hundred times already, you will.

Now more than ever, $1,000 is the starting point for a boat repair and it just goes up from there. Knowing what you are buying, before you are buying it, makes getting a survey standard practice for an experienced boater. The report is a negotiation tool, planning tool, and budgeting tool. I tell most of my clients…the seller probably didn’t even know. It is not that they were trying to hide things.

As of the authoring of this page, I had over a thousand inspections behind me. I can honestly say there has been only a couple occassions where the survey report did not pay for itself by identifying maintenance items or deficiencies which were likely to exceed the survey fee substantially. Boats are high maintenance and most boaters have a blind spot. The bilge can be an intimidating and overwhelming space and can hide many flaws and problems. Ask any experienced boat owner.

How much does a marine survey cost?

Well…It all depends…

There are many factors involved. In effect, you are paying for the time and expertise of the surveyor. Factors include:

  • The size and type of boat. A 35’ express is a much smaller job than a 35’ Aft Cabin or Motor Yacht.
  • Age…a 1996 will require more time than a 2016 of the same or similar make and model.
  • Type of inspection and report. An appraisal inspection and report is less detailed and thorough than a pre-purchase inpsection and report.
  • Location, location, location
    • Location of the boat relative to the surveyor. Travel is an expense in time and money.
    • Location of the boat relative to facilities…does the boat need to be hauled / lifted? Is the boat accessible? Is weather a factor (inside or outisde inspection)? The local surveyor may foactor these often time consuming factors into their price.
    • Location – geographic. It should be no surprise that some areas of the country and world are more expensive to live and work in.
  • Surveyor’s experience. I use the term “practice” a lot throughout the site. This is a highly skilled trade requiring education and experience. A surveyor who commits to this practice is studying an observing all the time. A more experienced and skilled surveyor got that way through hard work, study, and practice and will demand a higher price. All rules have expcetions, but it is generally reliable to say…you get what you pay for.
  • Additional services. Most charge extra for a sea trial. Some surveyors will do compression tests, some will pull outdrives, some will do rigging inspections and go aloft. Special services require special expertise and special tools. They are an expense to the surveyor in time and equipment and will be add ons in most cases.
  • Type of survey. There are many types and they all involve a different level of inspection and reporting. This is an area where some surveyors diverge or doffer, but generally, this tracks. It is always a good idea to have a solid understanding of what servies your surveyor offers. They are each their own business and entity and have their unique skills, so consider this a general description of the types:
    • Pre-purchase: This is considered the most comprehensive and detailed survey. A wise boat buyer will invest in an inspection prior to purchasing any boat. You don’t have to talk to many boaters before you will hear a story about a boat they bought without an inspection and all the problems they had after. An investment in a pre-purchase survey may have saved them thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.
    • Insurance: Depending on where you are these may be classd a “Condition and Value” or C&V also. These are reports which may be used by banks or insurance underwriters. Generally, they are less thorough. Banks and insurance companies don’t usually care if the window blinds go up and down. Talk to your surveyor about their scope of work. Some represent that they do the same inspection regardless.
    • Appraisal: Estates, divorces, donations, are all examples of where an appraisal inspection and report are provided. These tend to be the least thorough, but again…it all depends.
    • Damage claims: Many surveyors perform damage claim investigations for insurance companies and for boat owners. This is a specialized area where a surveyor studies failure analysis and cause of loss disciplines. Nature, cause, and extent of damages, is their general scope of work. They may include accidents scene investigations and crash reconstruction, assessing if damages are incident related, and reviewing estimates for “fair, reasonable, and customary” charges. Inevitably, these specialties eventually involve serving as an expert witness in court.
    • Engine (specialty) surveyors: As the name says, they specialize in assessing engine condition. They have the special extertise of an engine mechanic and perform tests they deem best suited to give their client a reliable opinion of the condition and service life of an engine.
    • Rigging surveyors: Again, specialists in the arts and sciences of sailboat rigging and lacking the fear of being in high places attached to a rope attached to a tall stick.
    • Paint / coatings surveyor: Yes, this is an uncomon but necesaary specialty. The chemists of our trade, they are experts in coatings and finishes in all environments. If you are spending tens or hunreds of thousands of dollars on a paint job, you may want an objective and specialized opinion or advice.
    • Commercial: There are many specialties in the commercial marine trades. They include surveyors or inspectors of cargo, commercial fishing boats, barges, commercial car ferries and/or passengers vessels, draft surveys, etc.
How does one become a marine surveyor?

The path varies for many. But for those who are looking to become a marine surveyor today, it starts with choosing one of the professional organizations and reaching out to them. Have a conversation with them about your experience and goals and they will help you with getting started. The profession needs people right now as like many trades, the number of professionals retiring is outpacing the number of new surveyors.

Plan to attend schooling. I strongly advise you to avoid correspondence schools at this point. They do not prepare a new surveyor for the job and the materials are not reliably accurate or up to date.

The conversation often starts with how the prospect has owned boats for XX years and has been boating their whole life. Everyone who has taken professional training ultimately says the same thing…I never realized how little I knew about boats.

What is SAMS® (Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors)?

SAMS® is best at describing themselves (Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors – SAMS), but in short, they are an organization which maintains ethical and educational oversight of it’s member surveyors. They have two primary designations:

Surveyor Associate: This is a surveyor who is in the process of earning an Accredited Marine Surveyor designation. They may be a new surveyor, or an experienced one, who has not yet fulfilled the requirements to apply for the AMS® designation.

Accredited Marine Surveyor (AMS®): This surveyor has met the pre-requisites, requirements, and exam to earn this designation.

What is NAMS (National Association of Marine Surveyors)?

The National Association of Marine Surveyors, Inc is also best at describing themselves.

They have three membership designations, Apprentice, Associate, and Certified Marine Surveyor. Follow this link to see more details.