A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Surveyors must be savvier than ever

Boats are like people. They like constant, regular use or exercise. They don’t like to be ridden hard and put away wet (without maintenance). And they don’t like to sit on the hard for extended periods of time. Like their owners, they’re capable of atrophying all on their own.

Marine surveyors such as George Gallup play an important role in our industry, especially in these economic times, when more boats have become inactive for longer stretches, and particularly if they weren’t put away properly. That calls for greater due diligence on the part of the buyer and the surveyor.

The immediate past president of the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors, Gallup says the most important challenge his profession faces is maintaining professionalism and integrity and sticking to its code of ethics.

As boats become increasingly sophisticated, Gallup says surveyors need to remain active in their continuing education to keep up with the state of the art in boatbuilding, especially electrical systems. Gallup, of Lynn, Mass., says that, on average, he gets about 150 CE credits a year through SAMS seminars and from courses through organizations such as the ABYC, on whose board he has sat.

“It’s a commitment to become a professional surveyor,” Gallup told Soundings magazine in an interview that will appear in the January issue. “It’s not a part-time, fill-in job. It’s a professional career with limitless opportunities to become successful.”

Gallup also made this observation: More and more boats, he says, seem to be designed by marketers rather than end-users.

The evidence? The fact that so-called “creature-comfort systems” are taking precedence over practical systems on some boats. An ongoing issue is the inaccessibility of systems for inspection and service, a perennial Achilles’ heel of builders and a constant source of frustration for owners and the people who work on their boats.

We asked Gallup what builders could do to improve their boats going forward.

“Simple,” he answered. “Attention to small details and accessibility of systems for maintenance are the key.”

Gallup once surveyed a mid-1980s 44-foot motoryacht that he suspected had sunk before. Not a particularly light tapper with his trusty phenolic hammer, Gallup remembers his surprise when his hammer went right through the bottom of the boat when he tested a wet area. That was a first.


4 comments on “Surveyors must be savvier than ever

  1. rog

    A big problem surveyors have, and that has not been referred to above, is the issue of a conflict of interest. If a surveyor is hired by a potential buyer, there’s no problem. His first responsibility is to the guy who pays his fee – his client, the buyer.
    However many surveys are commissioned by banks and insurance companies and these types of surveyors often are not clear with the prospective owner as to where their responsibilities lie.
    This issue is far more significant than being technically up to date.
    Larger boat designs have always been influenced, and often dictated, by marketers and interior designers. This has been going on for decades so I’m a bit surprised that Mr. Gallup appears to consider it significant. It’s always been thus.

  2. captbh


    You are mistaken in your example as it applies to a ethical surveyor.

    A surveyor works for only one client. your statement that, “If a surveyor is hired by a potential buyer, there’s no problem. His first responsibility is to the guy who pays his fee – his client, the buyer”, is absolutely correct.

    So is, “If a surveyor is hired by a bank, there’s no problem. His first responsibility is to the guy who pays his fee – his client, the bank.”

    So is, “If a surveyor is hired by an insurance company, there’s no problem. His first responsibility is to the guy who pays his fee – his client, the insurance company.”

    The problem arises when a surveyor hired by a bank or insurance company is finding things that the owner doesn’t like and they try to influence the surveyor’s report.

    A surveyor who is ethical and up to date on new technology will do the best job no matter who the client is.

    A surveyor who tries to please more than one client is unethical and not the type of surveyor Mr. Gallup is discussing.

  3. Boatdetective

    I think you’re confusing the scope of “ethical” behavior and “fiduciary responsibility”. The latter does involve some amount of fealty to your client. Usually, this is restricted to the work product. Your client paid for the report (be it buyer, owner, bank, insurance carrier, etc.), and so they are the ones to receive the copy. You should not give or sell the report to anyone else without their permission. However, the opinions in the report do NOT need to meet the the client’s interests. One basic tenet of ethical behavior is making a decision or finding that it not based solely on your own financial best interest.

    The greatest amount of confusion arises in donations, C&V inspections, and claims work. In donations, there is almost always a conflict. The owner is donating the boat, invariably, because it is a worthless POS. However, surveyors who are either too dumb or just plain crooked continue to write inflated values thinking that there’s some mythical “donation value”. In C&Vs, owners are touchy about any findings that will cause them to repair anything on the boat- so most reports list only the most silly compliance issues rather than address tough questions like a needed and significant downgrade in the market value of the policy limits. In claims, some sad and inexperienced surveyors feel that they have to work “in the owner’s corner” against the big bad heartless insurance carrier. Often times, this involves fairly questionable failure analysis in order to cram the damage under the definition of a covered loss.

  4. Stephen Leake

    In my area of operation (Eastern Ontario, Canada) when an insurance company or bank requires a survey, the onus is placed upon the boat owner to find and pay for the surveyor. So who is the “Client”?

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