This week the first steps toward self-regulation of the marine survey industry in Australia were achieved with the Australasian Institute of Marine Surveyors (the AIMS) certifying the professional qualifications and experience of some 80 marine surveyors.
The Certification scheme achieves two key objectives. It establishes best practice industry standards for commercial marine surveyors and empowers consumers to make informed choices.
Self-regulation is the responsibility of industry and both consumers and the government are our key stakeholders.
As the peak industry body for marine surveyors in Australia and with 450 members it is the role of the AIMS to work with industry to ensure that there are minimum standards in place, to work with consumers to ensure that they are protected as much as possible from poor practices and to work with Government to secure their commitment to minimum standards by the appropriate regulators.
Since the introduction of The Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012 and the accrediting of private surveyors there has been a significant amount of consumer confusion as to the role of the accredited surveyor and what types of surveys they undertake.
The AIMS fields calls each day from consumers seeking recommendations on marine surveyors, querying whether they need an AMSA accredited surveyor for a non-statutory survey and sadly, reporting poor practices in the recreational and domestic commercial vessel sectors.
We quickly identified that the term ‘accredited’ is confusing. Our survey identified that many didn’t know what accredited meant and, to the consumer, the term AMSA accredited was even more confusing. We identified that many consumers believed an AMSA accredited surveyor could undertake any type of survey and, as AMSA is the regulator, they wrongly assume that they were protected from poor practices.
While many AMSA accredited surveyors can, and do, undertake a wide range of marine surveys they are only accredited by AMSA to undertake certain aspects or categories of a statutory survey for a domestic commercial vessel.
The AIMS has stepped up to protect all stakeholders by establishing a mechanism that improves confidence in the industry as a whole.
Identifying best practice standards is no easy task for any industry and, quite rightly, relies on many factors. What qualifications and experience are required, how are ethical practices, managing corporate governance and undertaking CPD managed and monitored? What grievance procedures are required and will they be implemented are all parts of the process. It has not been an easy task and it is certainly not finished yet.
To establish the Certified Commercial Marine Surveyor benchmarks (CCMS) the AIMS sought the opinion of members, non-members and industry stakeholders to identify the base standards required. It was the starting point.
Qualifications (or lack of) are a sore point in the industry and the definition of a qualification is contentious. For example, is a distance course with no practical component delivered by a non- recognised or non -accredited (there is that word again) educational body sufficient enough to honestly call yourself qualified, hang out your shingle and advertise your services as a professional?
If you were ‘qualified’ more than 10 years ago but haven’t done any further study are you still qualified? What part does experience play? What type of experience is required? If you say you can do a draft survey but haven’t done one for the last 5 years are you still experienced?
The answer is complicated, divided in opinion and the consumer undoubtedly is confused or hoodwinked or both.
5 years ago, the AIMS developed the first Australian accredited (there’s that word again!) qualifications and while there is a degree of certainty in the rigour of the training and the assessment of practical skills it is no guarantee of a skillful execution of a marine survey or that the marine surveyor is professional. And, how would the consumer know what qualifications the surveyor holds anyway or when they achieved them? The consumer relies on licensing, or the Government or Industry to provide advice and direction.
Our experience is that a “certified professional” is what consumers want. They want a combination of experience, qualifications and ongoing development coupled with an ethical approach and the intent to do the right thing. This is what consumers are looking for and what a "professional" marine surveyor should be able to prove that they can do.
To become a Certified Commercial Marine Surveyor (CCMS) is a rigorous exercise and applicants were required to provide evidence of all of these things. That evidence, through a thorough vetting procedure was then verified as true and correct. The surveyor commits to operating their business in accordance with good governance principles, ethics and standards of service and commits to maintaining their skills. These surveyors have done that.
The AIMS will continue to develop and promote best practice benchmarks for commercial marine surveyors across all sectors of the industry and they applaud this first cohort of professional Certified Commercial Marine Surveyors.
There is some way to go yet but the AIMS is satisfied that consumers will have more chance to make a more informed choice. At least they can engage a Certified Commercial Marine Surveyor (CCMS) with some confidence!
The AIMS would like to thank all key stakeholders and consumers who provided their advice, suggestions and input over the last year. It was a task that we could not have achieved without their support.
A list of Certified Commercial Marine Surveyors will be available on the AIMS website over the coming week and as more applications are processed the list will be updated. Hard copy consumer information and CCMS directory are scheduled to be available at the AIMS AGM in August. The hard copy publications will be forwarded to all key stakeholders at the conclusion of the AGM.
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