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Red tape needed! Why recreational vessels need registration

09 May 2020 1:39 PM | The Institute (Administrator)

In an age where most industries are seeking a reduction in red (and green) tape, the marine survey sector of the maritime industry could use any left overs going around.

Increasingly AIMS is receiving more and more consumer complaints related to what is termed in our industry as “shingle hangers” – to be more precise, marine surveyors doing slap happy surveys on recreational vessels.

Luckily for us, the vast majority of complaints do not involve AIMS members and I can only assume our vigilance in ensuring our surveyors are qualified to do what they say they can and have an equal amount of experience goes some way to discouraging the less than qualified operators from applying for membership.

For some time now we have tried to influence the regulators and State Governments to introduce ‘vessel registration’ at the point of sale or change of ownership of a recreational vessel. We argue that a registration process should involve what’s known as a Condition Survey by a qualified surveyor, and by ‘qualified’, we mean ‘qualified to be in business’ as well. Surveyors should hold appropriate insurance and a professional business structure and be accountable for the quality of their service.

AIMS has transitioned the marine survey sector to a contemporary model that addresses consumer welfare in terms of the quality, price and standard of work they receive from marine surveyors and is striving to improve the professional standards of our marine surveyors and thereby protect consumers. 

Road vehicles are regulated in terms of ‘roadworthiness’. In Queensland the rules are strict.  Vehicles being sold, deregistered vehicles or interstate vehicles must have a roadworthy certificate and it must be displayed once the vehicle goes on sale. Victoria and the ACT only enforces this at the point of sale to allow a transfer of registration, while NSW requires a blue slip for cars under 5 years old which confirms the condition, and includes confirming the vin and engine numbers. If the vehicle is over 5 years or selling or transferring interstate, a pink slip or e-safety check of the vehicle is required to renew registration. Western Australia doesn’t have any requirements for private vehicles unless imported or modified, and Tasmania, has what is known as the Defective Vehicle and Random Vehicle Inspection call-in scheme in place to check vehicles that may be considered un-roadworthy. Lastly, the Northern Territory requires that if a vehicle is under 3 years old and under 4.5 tonnes before it is registered, renewed or transferred from interstate, it must be inspected and issued with a compliance certificate.

So why isn’t this happening with recreational vessels? The largest proportion of marine incidents occur in the recreational vessel sector. Every year we see incidents due to vessels in poor condition and alarmingly, vessels that don’t have the right safety equipment. They get in to trouble and then scream to be rescued – also expensive and exhausting on the State, AMSA or both. 

Considering that tax payers fund the wages of maritime safety staff it’s hard to fathom why the lack of oversight is allowed to happen.

Marine Insurers don’t assist either. They have a very rudimentary check list for surveyors to use for insurance purposes and most, if not all, don’t check that the surveyors they recommend are properly qualified. It appears to be a nice little club where its win/win for everyone except the vessel owner.

Beware when shopping around for the cheapest surveyor because this is risky and while a good survey might seem expensive at the time, it’s certainly a whole lot cheaper than repairing a vessel after the fact or relying on your insurance broker to assist.

State maritime safety agencies have the power to hold recreational vessel surveyors to account by regulating registration at the point of sale and insisting on a condition report. They just need to talk to us – we will help.

If we can achieve a bit of red tape the shingle hangers will think twice before writing up a condition report that could be contested, surveyors will need insurance and vessel owners will not only have some peace of mind but that nice expensive boat that you want to take out on the water won’t be in dock getting repairs that should have been done BEFORE the purchase. 

We are here to help you and protect good surveyors. We need numbers to help our lobbying effort. So if you are a vessel owner, prospective buyer, a marine surveyor or someone who thinks this is just plain common sense you can help us by liking or loving our post, retweeting or contributing with a reply!

Safe boating! 

About AIMS
The Australasian Institute of Marine Surveyors is the largest industry body in the Australasian region for professional marine surveyors and their cross sector colleagues.
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