Small hull surveys are generally carried out on vessels that are not subject to the jurisdiction of classification societies or government authorities. A survey of a small vessel is carried out by the surveyor carefully examining every part of the ship concerned looking for past, present and future troubles. Any past repairs have to be carefully scrutinised to ensure they were adequately carried out and if possible discover what initially caused them.

The survey involves a thorough inspection of the vessel's hull as well as other areas including steering gear, deck fittings and riggings, engine, tanks and electrical wiring, lifesaving appliances and navigation equipment. The surveyor's duty is to their client whether it be the owner, underwriter or prospective buyer. He must be fearless in making out his report which may on occasion give rise to disputations.

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