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P&I Vessel Search

Guidelines for Marine Surveyors 


Your firm is being instructed by the Ship-owner to conduct a survey on one of their vessels. The report produced will be shown to Navigators P&I as information supporting application by the Ship-owner for P&I insurance. The scope of the survey must be sufficiently wide and report adequately to enable Navigators to assess the risks presented by the vessel and her operations in her present state. The comments of the surveyor on deficiencies should be clear and his recommendations on improvement are sought where appropriate.


The cost of the survey is for the account of the instructing ship-owner and you are required to ensure payment directly is affected. Navigators P&I does not pay or guarantee the costs and expenses either of surveys or any attendant arrangement fee.


The format of the report is expected to be in accordance with your firm’s quality standards. The content of your document is preferred expressed as a commentary by the attending surveyor, rather than presented as a checklist and/or scoring table. Photographs clearly showing representative condition will enhance the value of your report. The emphasis of any survey should be on the risks posed by the vessel.


What we are looking for;


1.) A brief outline of the vessel

This brief outline of the vessel should include a narrative of the general arrangement of the vessel; Its hull, superstructure, cargo handling gear (focussing on any hatch cover arrangements), and her machinery.  In addition details of where the survey was carried out (port and country) and a recent history of the vessels operations.  We would be interested to have an indication of the vessels typical trade, a history of the vessels recent ports of call as well as cargoes carried.


Comments should also be made regarding the vessels recent management history.  Relevant details should include how the crew is managed and from where, who the ISM managers are, and who gives the vessel its commercial direction, charterers or owners.


Regarding ships certificates: Details to be included are outlined in section 3) format below.


2.) The risks posed by the vessel

The main section of the report should be given over to the assessment of the risks of the vessel.  These risks can be grouped loosely into five main areas as explained below;


Cargo worthiness 

One of our prime concerns is the cargo worthiness of the vessel.  Particular effort should be made by the surveyor to fully appraise the cargo carrying aspects of the vessel.  All holds should be thoroughly inspected.  Their general condition, evidence of maintenance and condition of protective coatings should be commented on.  All cargo handling gear should be inspected and commented upon and in addition, any relevant certification which is required to be kept onboard (i.e. survey of lifting appliances) should be also be inspected and commented upon.


The surveyor should focus on all hatch cover arrangements.  Comments should fully reflect the state of the weather-tight integrity of hatch covers.  Areas of inspection should include; the general arrangement; the condition of any rubber seals; the condition of any locking pins, wedges; the condition of any tarpaulins and all associated securing arrangements and fittings.  It is preferred that ultrasonic testing is used to assess hatch covers weather-tight integrity, however the surveyor should always use the most appropriate method of testing. The final report, including all diagrams, should be attached to the survey report as an appendix.


Also to be fully tested and inspected is the water-tightness of intervening bulkheads separating cargo spaces from ballast tanks.  Any adjoining ballast tanks should be pressed up and any apparent watery ingress should be commented upon.


The bilge system should be fully tested by way of high level alarms, bilge well suction test and any other relevant test found on the bilge system.


Pollution prevention 

The surveyor should comment on the condition of the engine room including bilges, bottom plates and the area around the tail shaft. Comments should be made on the general up keep, planned maintenance schedule and cleanliness of the engine room.  It should also be commented on the crews familiarity with ballast, bilge and other overboard operations with a focus on the Oily Water Separator / Sea Chest.  Also noting the condition of and quality of records kept within the Oil Record Book, ballast water management records and the lube oil analysis reports.


It is important to gauge the pollution preparedness of the crew therefore, the surveyor should comment on the training and familiarity with clean up gear.


Comment should be made regarding the SOPEP gear, its condition and availability to the crew also should be noted is how often the crew are trained in its use.


Personal safety 

Working areas: A review of the general condition of working areas should include comments on slip/trip hazards, low hanging cross beams / deck-heads, etc.  Crew Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be commented on; what is issued and how (if) it is used.  The surveyor should pay particular attention to deck/engine room workshops and the galley where additional and/or specialist PPE will be required.


Comments should be made on the cleanliness of the paint locker, bosun's store fo’c’stle store and Engine room storerooms.


The condition of the accommodation should be reviewed with comments made on the Hospital, medical locker/dispensary, recreational rooms and cabins. 


The galley, dry stores and fish & meat lockers should be inspected thoroughly for hygiene and personal injury risks.


Operational / Navigational 

This section highlights the importance of management and record keeping onboard the vessel as well as the competence and experience of the crew.


Log books should be inspected and comments made on their upkeep. To be included in the inspection should be;


  • Deck / engine room log books
  • Bell book
  • Oil Record book
  • Ballast water management records
  • Planned Maintenance records
  • Training / emergency exercise records
  • Hours of rest
  • Night order & Standing order books
  • Etc.... (This list is not exhaustive)


Photographic evidence of log books is not required unless an irregularity is found.

Comments should also be made regarding, planned maintenance systems, test records and purchase orders which should document the true state of the repair of the vessel.


Comments should be made relating to bridge management and should included such details as; passage planning, the up keeping of the chart folio (to include all codes, guides, regulations and notice to managers), the readiness of the radio station and all electronic navigational aids. 


In this section the surveyor should explore the competence and experience of the crew regarding the vessel itself and the usual cargoes she carries.



In all instances the surveyor should carry out all inspections and tests first hand and will not rely upon the word of the crew regarding the vessel’s condition.


There may well be tanks, holds, systems or other areas of the vessel which cannot be opened inspected or tested for whatever reason.  This may be due to the nature of the cargo carried, the vessels current operational status or the imposition of local regulations.  In these instances the report must clearly state any areas, holds or systems not tested and clearly state the reason why.


3.) Format  

The report should take the format of a detailed narrative description of the areas surveyed, and the tests carried out.  The narrative section should be a commentary of the surveyors experience whilst carrying out the survey.  Here it can be commented on the attitude and wellbeing of the crew.  The purpose of this section of the report is to give the reader some sense of what it would be like to live and work on board the vessel.  It is useful to know the surveyor’s general opinion of the vessel and if the surveyor would be willing to serve on the vessel themselves, or the reasons why they would not.  The surveyor should clearly indicate whether the vessel is fit to conduct its next intended voyage without incident.


Cover page  

The cover page to the report should clearly state, as a minimum, the following information;

  • Name of surveyor
  • Name of survey company
  • Name of vessel
  • Type of vessel
  • Port and Country of survey
  • Date of Survey
  • Vessels IMO number
  • Vessels gross tonnage



Pictures should be used to give a general overview of the vessels condition.  In addition Pictures are required to support any deficiency noted on the defect list.

If pictures are included in the main body of the report they should be of sufficient size so the issue at hand can be clearly identified to the reader.  If pictures are collated in an appendix they should be fully referenced in the main text of the report.  In all cases all pictures are required to be fully annotated.


Defect list  

A full, typed, copy of the defects list should be included as an appendix to the full report and presented in Microsoft Word (or similar) format.  A full and clear description should be made of what the defect is and where on board the ship it was found.  Photos are required to evidence ALL defects.



Copies of the following ships documents should be attached to the report;

  • Vessels particulars (ships card / pilot card)
  • Crew list
  • Cert. of Registry
  • Cert. of Classification
  • DOC (ISM)
  • IOPP
  • DMLC (MLC 2006)
  • Safe manning
  • Relevant documentation for the vessels operation (IMDG / IMSBC etc... )
  • Last three Port State Control reports

If copies cannot be made then the following details for each certificate should be noted;

  • Issuing authority
  • Date of issue / expiry
  • Certificate number