Becoming a Marine Surveyor - Part I

Posted on 11 December 2017 by Mike Wall

This week, Marine Society supporter Mike Wall gives us his take on becoming a Marine Surveyor. As well as being a chief engineer, lecturer, and successful author, Mike spent 25 years as a hull, machinery, and cargo surveyor. He is currently a visiting lecturer at various education and training establishments and regularly carries out training seminars for various shipping organisations.

Many Merchant and Royal Navy officers often wonder what they can do if they choose to leave the sea. There are many choices for both deck and engineer officers. Deck officers may choose to become pilots or harbour masters whilst the engineer officers may become power station or hotel engineers. One job that both can do is that of marine surveyor.

Many experienced marine surveyors suggest that you will learn something new and find new challenges every day. If you love ships, but not necessarily the sea, you will get a lot of satisfaction from experiencing all types and designs of vessel/engine. You may be away from home for short periods but will probably earn as much, and probably more, as working at sea.

Marine Engineer - Marine Society

The term 'marine surveyor' covers a wide range of work involving surveys, inspections and investigations aboard all types of ship, eg, merchant vessels, pleasure craft, offshore structures. Surveys may also include the commodities being carried by those vessels, ie, their cargoes, of which there are many.

Marine surveys may be considered to be of two types, ie, proactive or reactive. In the former, the surveyor inspects a vessel before a voyage or activity to ensure that it meets relevant requirements, standards and/or international conventions, eg, Classification Society surveys, P&I condition surveys, marine warranty surveys. A reactive survey is carried out after an event or incident, eg, marine accident investigation, cargo damage investigation, hull and machinery damage investigation. Some planning may be possible with proactive surveys whilst reactive surveys will usually involve a call out at short notice and at unsociable hours.

Types of surveyor include:

  • Classification Society surveyors.
  • Flag state surveyors.
  • Government surveyors.
  • Port state control surveyors.
  • Hull and machinery surveyors.
  • Nautical surveyors.
  • P&I Club surveyors.
  • Charterers' surveyors.
  • Owners' surveyors.
  • Cargo surveyors.
  • Pleasure craft surveyors.
  • Superyacht surveyors.
  • Offshore oil and gas surveyors.
  • Marine accident investigators.
  • Marine warranty surveyors.
  • Special Casualty Representative.

Some organisations, eg, those involved in gas or liquid cargoes, require surveyors to have several years of experience on board relevant vessels. Getting as much experience in different types of ships, cargoes or machinery will add more strings to your bow.

In employment terms, marine surveyors may be considered to be either 'staff' or 'independent' surveyors. Independent marine survey companies tend to be appointed by parties who need an honest, independent and objective opinion of the entity being surveyed or inspected, eg, a ship, cargo, piece of machinery, etc.

Independent surveyors tend to be employed to carry out:

  • Flag state surveys.
  • Hull and machinery surveys.
  • Nautical surveys.
  • P&I Club surveys.
  • Pre-purchase condition surveys.
  • Charterers' surveys.
  • Owners' surveys.
  • Cargo surveys.
  • Pleasure craft surveys.
  • Offshore oil and gas surveyors.
  • Marine accident investigators.
  • Marine warranty surveys.
  • Salvage.

Whilst some P&I Clubs have their own inspectors, they all employ independent marine surveyors to carry out their condition surveys. A staff surveyor is usually permanently employed by a company as an in-house surveyor. Staff surveyors are usually employed by classification societies, governments, and port state control.

Just as in any other form of employment, the new surveyor will usually be considered to be a trainee. This may be difficult for some experienced mariners to accept having been senior officers on board ship. Whilst they may have years of seagoing experience with technical expertise being a major part a marine surveyor's job, the job involves gathering evidence and producing a good report. New marine surveyors will likely not receive a full salary and benefits package until considered to be of worth to the organisation, whether as a staff or independent surveyor.

The report is a surveyor’s and his company’s product. These take different forms which depend on the nature of the work and the client’s needs. A good report can make a surveyor while a poor one can ruin a promising career. For this reason, surveyors should be trained in writing simple English and comprehensive but succinct reports.

Mike Wall -

That's it for now, next week we will look at the qualifications, courses, and career pathways available for those who want to get into marine surveying. Mike has authored multiple books which are available in our shop. If you'd like more information on careers available to seafarers moving ashore, get in touch with us.