Damage surveys may be carried out at the request of marine insurers, P&I Clubs, owners or third parties where collision or injury has occurred. In conducting a survey, the nature, cause and extent of the damage is ascertained and the necessary repair commendations made. This is normally done on a without prejudice basis to the terms and conditions of insurance.
Damage repair accounts are scrutinised and endorsed by the surveyor which may include the provision for progress payments to contractors during the course of repairs. Agreed costs are then submitted to underwriters with reports supporting the progress of repairs.
In establishing the cause of the damage, the surveyor may need to call upon specialist consultants. They will sometimes be required to obtain statements and samples of evidence. In the case of claims involving complicated machinery breakdowns, where the cause and liability is complex, the particular expertise of an engineer surveyor maybe required.
Condition surveys are carried out to determine the value of the vessel for either insurance purposes or sale. For larger tonnages where facilities exist, vessels for survey are placed on the slipway or in dry dock to enable a comprehensive inspection and examination of underwater surfaces and fittings.
Surveyors may be required to advise on valuations based upon vessel condition and current market trends. In such a survey, it is essential that as much of the vessel as possible is inspected, including ballast tanks, void spaces, cargo or product spaces, decks and accommodation.
Draft surveys are a convenient and economical means of ascertaining the weight of cargo loaded into, or discharged from, a ship. A well conducted draft survey is capable of achieving an accuracy of less than 0.5%, which is as good as, or better than many methods such as belt weighing systems. It is the only method with the advantage of consistency in that the cargo weight calculations involve the same parameters (i.e. the ship itself) at the ports of loading and discharge.
The accuracy of a draft survey depends on many factors, the main ones being sea surface conditions, list and trim of the vessel and the co-operation of the ship's officers. The latter is particularly important as it is necessary to accurately sound and calculate the quantities in all fuel, ballast and fresh water tanks. If the conditions are good and care is taken with all calculations, excellent results can be obtained.