Marine Surveys by Douglass Marine Co., Keith L. Douglass, SAMS® AMS®, Islamorada, Florida, USA Douglass Marine Co.

Islamorada, Florida, USA
Serving The Keys & All Of Florida

Keith L. Douglass, SAMS® AMS®
Diane Douglass, SAMS® AMS®

Principal Marine Surveyors

Protect Your Investment with Services of a Marine Surveyor
Copyright © Keynoter Publishing Co. Reprinted by Permission

Marine surveyors in the Florida Keys make up a relatively small fraternity of professionals dedicated to providing a variety of marine-related services to recreational boaters as well as marine insurers, leading institutions, attorneys and other marine-service providers.

A marine surveyor can be an invaluable resource to anyone needing to know the condition of a vessel, its value and how to improve its condition. With the thousands of vessels owned and operated in Monroe County, it is a good possibility you or someone you know may need the assistance of a competent marine surveyors at some point. So how do you know if and when you may need the services of a marine surveyor?

For decades, surveyors have been aiding would-be boat buyers anxious to purchase the vessel of their dreams, and have been told by financing institutions and insurers that their investments must be a sound one and their risk minimal. Many insurance companies require a marine survey periodically, especially for older boats or those made of a particular material.

Boat owners may need to know the value of their vessel for some specific reason such as when donating the vessel to a charitable organization, or to determine if and when and to sell. Others simply may need assistance coordinating needed repair work, or planning and implementing an extensive upgrade to their vessel and equipment, which could increase the value and need for additional insurance coverage.

Marine surveyors have a good working knowledge of the local providers of marine services such as marinas and other repair facilities, engine mechanics, electronics technicians, and boat canvas shops. They may call in an associate if additional expertise is warranted, and are able to recommend competent technicians to service such systems as refrigeration and air conditioning.

Surveyors also are retained by insurance company and legal firms to provide an analysis of the cause of damage due either a natural phenomenon or mishap. Surveyors are enlisted to help determine the premiums required when transporting commercial cargo and other related issues. Many serve as expert witnesses when needed to verify the cause and effect of a marine accident.

Surveyors usually have a particular specialty, such as recreational vessels and small commercial craft, while others specialize in commercial fishing vessels, cargo or merchant ships. Their ability to work with people and remain objective is very evident when buyers, sellers, yacht broker, plus two or three old-salt friends of the buyer are debate the value of the vessel, completely confusing the prospective buyer.

Surveyors have varied backgrounds, but have one thing in common: Their long-standing association with and love of boats. Although there are no legal requirements established other than occupational and other local licenses required to operate a business, there are several international associations that both accredit members and serve as a clearinghouse for information.

Two organizations, the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors and the National Association of Marine Surveyors, provide training programs, seminars, testing and other member services.

What should the prospective new-or-used-boat buyer expect from his or her marine surveyor? A client should expect to receive credentials verifying the competence of the individual, a verbal or written contract outlining the cost and type of services to be provided, a survey inspection of the vessel, and a written survey report. A formal written contract may be entered into at the onset, or verbal quote given.

Many surveyors charge by the foot (length of the vessel), which includes an inspection of the vessel and a detailed report. The per-foot rate may vary, with vessels between 30 and 50 feet charged one rate, and boats 50 feet and longer another rate. Sea trials, photographs and other ancillary services may be extra but should be agreed upon before the work starts.

The actual survey consists of two parts, the survey inspection and the survey report. Many surveys are conducted while the vessel is in the water, which eliminates the expense of hauling but precludes a complete inspection of the hull and related external equipment below the waterline. As a general rule, prospective boat buyers should have the bottom inspected out of the water and proper sea trials conducted to determine the state of the ship's systems while underway, and to determine if this truly is the boat you have dreamed about.

The survey report should consist of detailed information regarding the ownership, registration, manufacture and vessel specifications. The survey report should also state what was and was not inspected, and the inspection standards referred to such as the American Boat and Yacht Council and the National Fire Protection Association. The remainder of the report should consist of the observations of the surveyor relating to the condition of the vessel and equipment and systems aboard, both a current market value and replacement value and how that value was obtained, if valuation was requested, and a list of recommendations to meet legal requirements, or enhance the overall safety and operation of the vessel.

The report should not simply be an inventory of the gear aboard.

Whether there is the need for a level of confidence before purchasing a vessel, meeting lender or insurance requirements, helping with a damage claim, or assisting with major upgrades and improvements, the marine surveyor can be a valuable resource to the decision maker.

Keith Douglass owns of Douglass Marine, specializes in marine surveying and consulting. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard masters license and is a member of the society of Accredited Marine Surveyors.

Copyright © Keynoter Publishing Co. Reprinted by Permission

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