What Is A Marine Surveyor?

This post brings the simple question of what a Marine Surveyor is, or more appropriately, what the duty of such a professional is within the financial sector of insurance.  Peak Claims has been providing professional services as marine surveyors throughout the United States since 2006.

In many cases, the term Marine Surveyor means a person who provides evaluation and consulting services to insurance companies as related to marine insurance.  Marine insurance is often categorized as that which insures cargo or freight in the maritime industry, but has expanded to include a range of coverages which might include things such as large equipment which is often not insurable in standard markets.  For example, a semi-truck is often insurable in a standard market, but one which has been modified to include oil field equipment (such as a hydro suction excavator) will likely fall under a marine policy.

Most commonly, marine surveyors provide an assessment of damaged cargo or freight, and are often referred to as Cargo or Freight Damage Surveyors.  This type of work often involves a very detailed assessment of the packaging methods that were in place for a particular shipment or piece of equipment, and may also include conducting simple tests to determine whether sea-water is present on a shipment arriving with excess moisture, mold, or mildew growth.  The marine surveyor will attend a survey at the location of the cargo, and may attend the survey “jointly” with other interested parties.  In many cases, cargo that is loaded into a truck or transport across land is insured separately from the truck itself, but if the truck possibly has some comparative negligence (fault) in handling the shipment, their insurer may also have another surveyor appear to inspect the goods.  This is different from an insurance adjuster, however, because in most cases there is no “adjustment” to be made.  Rather, there is an invoice declaring the cost of goods, and the claim is settled strictly on the amount of damages, or the difference in the quantity of damaged goods versus invoice value.

Wooden crate containing metal manufacturing equipment parts related to the paper industry.

This photo was taken by a Peak Claims Marine Surveyor on a cargo damage survey.  Depicted is the partial condition within crating used for shipping a piece of complex equipment used in the paper manufacturing process. The cargo was received “wetted” or with excess moisture.

A marine surveyor with significant experience provided cargo or freight damage assessment services may also provide services for Loss Control.  When providing loss control services, the purpose is to document the packing methods, markings on the exterior crating, stowage of the cargo, and logistics (movement) of the cargo.  In this scenario, the insurance company has essentially hired a person to document the condition prior to shipment so that any discrepancies upon arrival can be assessed in comparison.  The purpose of the loss control survey is essentially to help Underwriting gain knowledge of a unique scenario, and often involves cargo in excess of $2 million USD.

In most cases, loss control surveys involve large crates or equipment known as “break-bulk”, or that which cannot be stored within a container.  In some instances, however, this may involve one or more pieces of IT equipment or food product which must remain in a temperature controlled and air-ride suspension transportation van, or other “high-risk” goods.  In some cases, loss control is present for the stuffing of high-value containers.  In other settings, services may be provided while freight is being stowed on an aircraft.  Yet another example might be where it’s necessary to transfer expensive cargo from one trailer or mode of transport to another, in an effort to accommodate changing conditions of transit.

Two large cranes hoist a 170+ ton turbine for movement from one trailer to the next for over the road transportation.

Loss Control Survey: Two cranes hoisting a turbine for transition between two different trailers for over the road transit. This is a marine insurance coverage.

A surveyor may also be someone who inspects yachts and small craft for insurance underwriting or claim purposes.

Marine surveyors also may specialize by inspecting the carriage hull of below-deck goods carried in a marine vessel.  This mode of surveying requires specialized knowledge of the product itself, along with mathematical calculations based on the vessel’s hull markings at the water line.  These markings are also known as Plimsoll or International Water Load Line.  By calculating the amount of fuel on-board the ship, and combining that information with other knowledge, a marine surveyor can determine whether a shipment containing several hundred tons of grain or other commodity stored below deck was received as expected, or short, in addition to examining the actual commodity.  This is also a method used to determine whether a ship is over-loaded.

Peak Claims has provided hundreds of surveys involving this type of service since 2006.  Our offices have conducted several hundred loss control surveys to a variety of markets, including everything from the energy industry (solar, electrical, natural gas, oil, wind), to aerospace technology.  Please visit our marine insurance services section for more information, or contact Phillip A. Crimaldi at our main office in Denver, Colorado for more information.  Peak Claims provides services in California, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Ohio, North Dakota (Williston, Dickinson) and many other locations throughout the United States.

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