Marine surveyor

Marine surveyor article illustration


Marine surveyors inspect vessels intended for operations in maritime or open sea waters. They ensure that vessels and equipment follow the regulations laid down by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). They may also act as third parties for the review of offshore facilities and construction projects.

The duties of a marine surveyor typically include, but are not limited to:

  • Examining and approving design plans for vessels.
  • Inspecting standards of construction.
  • Coordinating or witnessing tests of construction materials.
  • Inspecting and surveying vessels, paying close attention to hulls, machinery and equipment during ship construction to ensure legislative requirements are met.
  • Continuing to conduct surveys on ships over their lifetime.
  • Witnessing tests of emergency and safety machinery and equipment.
  • Measuring ships for tonnage and loading line assignment.
  • Investigating marine accidents and recording notes.
  • Attending court as an expert witness, particularly in coronial inquests.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to marine surveyor:

marine surveyors
inland waterway vessel inspector
marine warranty surveyor
inland water ship inspector
hull and machinery surveyor
maritime ship inspector
cargo surveyor
yacht and small craft surveyor

Working conditions

Marine surveyors spend some of their time based in an office. They also spend considerable time outdoors in harbours or out at sea, in various weather conditions. They may be required to travel for work, and sometimes they need to base themselves at the location of the ship for the duration of their project.

Marine surveyors may specialise in the examination of a particular aspect of a vessel such as marine mechanical equipment or the assessment of decks or hulls. With the appropriate training and accreditation, marine surveyors may work in multiple specialisations.

Minimum qualifications

To become a marine surveyor, you need to study a qualification in marine surveying.

There are specific international organisations providing certification in surveying. These include Lloyd’s Maritime Academy, the International Institute of Marine Surveying (IIMS), the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS), and the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS). Members of SAMS, known as Accredited Marine Surveyors (AMS), hold valid certifications and represent a large group of surveyors who establish precedents and maintain standards for all members to follow. Most societies suggest getting direct experience under a marine surveyor after completing their courses. However, one can also directly approach an experienced surveyor first instead of joining a class.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Marine surveyor is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Marine surveyor career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to marine surveyor.

vessel engine inspector
motor vehicle engine inspector
rolling stock engine inspector
aircraft engine inspector
fisheries refrigeration engineer

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of marine surveyor. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of marine surveyor with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

naval architect
aerodynamics engineer
inland water transport general manager
fleet commander
aviation communications and frequency coordination manager

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of marine surveyor.

  • Ship related legislative requirements: Conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) concerning safety of life at sea, security and protection of the marine environment.
  • Quality assurance procedures: The procedures to inspect a product or system to ensure that it is according to specifications and requirements.
  • International waterways: The international waterways used for maritime navigation, the geographical location of currents, maritime waterways, and harbours.
  • Mechanics of vessels: The mechanics involved in boats and ships. Understand the technicalities and participate in discussions over related topics in order to solve problems related to the mechanics.
  • Mathematics: Mathematics is the study of topics such as quantity, structure, space, and change. It involves the identification of patterns and formulating new conjectures based on them. Mathematicians strive to prove the truth or falsity of these conjectures. There are many fields of mathematics, some of which are widely used for practical applications.
  • Types of maritime vessels: Know a large variety of maritime vessels and their characteristics and specifications. Use that knowledge to ensure that all security, technical, and maintenance measures are taken into account in their supply.
  • Maritime transportation technology: Understand maritime transportation technology and stay up-to-date with the latest findings in the field. Apply this knowledge in operations and decision-making while on-board.
  • Maritime telecommunications: Knowledge of transmission, broadcasting equipment and overall operation of telecommunications systems.
  • Mechanical engineering: Discipline that applies principles of physics, engineering and materials science to design, analyse, manufacture and maintain mechanical systems.
  • National waterways: Know the national waterways used for inland navigation, know geographical location of rivers, canals, seaports and inland harbours, and understand the relationship with cargo flows.
  • Global maritime distress and safety system: The internationally agreed-upon set of safety procedures, types of equipment and communication protocols used to increase safety and make it easier to rescue distressed ships, boats and aircraft.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of marine surveyor.

  • Comply with operational standards for vessels: Make sure that the design and condition of the vessels are up to par for the operation.
  • Ensure vessel security: Ensure that security requirements for vessels are met according to legal norms. Check if the security equipment is in place and operational. Communicate with marine engineers to ensure that the technical parts of the vessel functioning effectively and can perform as necessary for the upcoming journey.
  • Read standard blueprints: Read and comprehend standard blueprints, machine, and process drawings.
  • Advise on maritime subjects: Provide information and advice on maritime laws, vessel registration, and safety regulations.
  • Inspect vessel: Inspect vessels to ensure their effective and safe operation. Keep the vessel and its equipment in conformance to regulations.
  • Ensure vessel compliance with regulations: Inspect vessels, vessel components, and equipment; ensure compliance with standards and specifications.
  • Analyse ship operations: Provide a snapshot of ship operations and the manner in which systems are operated and maintained. Provide information for action that could be taken to improve performance, or to correct weaknesses.
  • Recognise signs of corrosion: Recognise the symptoms of metal showing oxidation reactions with the environment resulting in rusting, copper pitting, stress cracking, and others, and estimate the rate of corrosion.
  • Read engineering drawings: Read the technical drawings of a product made by the engineer in order to suggest improvements, make models of the product or operate it.
  • Assess vessel capability: Assess vessel capability utilising different methods and drawing on information from the deck crew; determine specific measurements and gather data for further calculations on the capability of vessels.
  • Assess structural integrity of ship for maritime usage: Assess the structural integrity of a ship and determine its suitability for continued use in maritime activities.
  • Write inspection reports: Write the results and conclusions of the inspection in a clear and intelligible way. Log the inspection’s processes such as contact, outcome, and steps taken.
  • Determine cause of damage: Recognise damage and signs of corrosion, identify their cause and determine maintenance and repair procedures.
  • Lead inspections: Lead inspections and the protocol involved, such as introducing the inspection team, explaining the purpose of the inspection, performing the inspection, requesting documents, asking appropriate questions, and maintaining a high level of professionalism when investigating subjects.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of marine surveyor. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Physical parts of the vessel: Detailed knowledge of the different physical components of the vessel. Provide maintenance and care to ensure optimal operations.
  • Engineering principles: The engineering elements like functionality, replicability, and costs in relation to the design and how they are applied in the completion of engineering projects.
  • Inland waterway police regulations: Understand waterway rules, legal requirements, and relevant police regulations. Handle and maintain buoys, marking systems, and day and night signs.
  • Vehicle cargo capacity: The capacity and the limits of the commissioned vehicle in terms of weight, type of cargo it can handle, and other cargo loading specifications.
  • Engineering processes: The systematic approach to the development and maintenance of engineering systems.
  • European classification of inland waterways: Understand the European CEMT classification of inland waterways; use modern information systems to compare the dimensions of the waterway to those of the vessel.
  • Principles of cargo stowage: Understand the principles of cargo stowage. Understand procedures by which containers should be efficiently loaded and unloaded, taking into account gravitational forces that are exerted during transportation.
  • Engine components: Know the different engine components, and their operation and maintenance. Understand when repairs and replacement should be undertaken.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of marine surveyor. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Act as contact person during equipment incident: Act as the person to be contacted when an equipment incident occurs. Participate in the investigation by providing insights.
  • Inspect offshore constructions: Conduct regular inspections during and after the construction of offshore facilities such as oil platforms to ensure risk minimisation and compliance with regulations.
  • Assume responsibility for maintaining a safe ship environment: Ensure a safe on board environment for crew and passengers.
  • Conduct analysis of ship data: Collect information from a vessel’s management software and cross reference it to analyse the data from different points of view. Analyse data and apply judgement to inform decision-making.
  • Inspect cargo: Conduct quality checks on cargo before loading and after unloading commences. Ensure total on-board cargo load is secure.
  • Monitor the validity of ship certificates: Control and monitor validity of the ship’s certificate and other official documents to be carried on board. Knowledge and ability to ensure the validity of certificates and other documents which must be carried on board.
  • Issue licences: Issue official documentation which grants licence holders with official permission to perform certain activities, after having investigated the application and processed the necessary documentation.
  • Use different communication channels: Make use of various types of communication channels such as verbal, handwritten, digital and telephonic communication with the purpose of constructing and sharing ideas or information.
  • Operate precision measuring equipment: Measure the size of a processed part when checking and marking it to check if it is up to standard by use of two and three dimensional precision measuring equipment such as a caliper, a micrometer, and a measuring gauge.
  • Manage health and safety standards: Oversee all personnel and processes to comply with health, safety and hygiene standards. Communicate and support alignment of these requirements with the company’s health and safety programmes.
  • Inspect engine rooms: Inspect engine rooms to detect the presence of any hazardous materials, and to ensure legal compliance. Inspect the construction of the rooms, the functionality of equipment, the adequacy of room ventilation, and the frequency of maintenance activities.
  • Advise on equipment maintenance: Advise customers on the appropriate products, methods and, if necessary, interventions to ensure proper maintenance and prevent premature damage of an object or an installation.
  • Inspect vessel manufacturing: Inspect plants where ships and boats are manufactured to ensure safety and quality control. Ensure that components are manufactured in compliance with safety and design specifications.
  • Provide advice to technicians: Offer help and advice to service technicians in case of machine malfunctions and other repair tasks.
  • Write work-related reports: Compose work-related reports that support effective relationship management and a high standard of documentation and record keeping. Write and present results and conclusions in a clear and intelligible way so they are comprehensible to a non-expert audience.
  • File claims with insurance companies: File a factual request to an insurance company in case a problem occurs which is covered under an insurance policy.
  • Interpret inland water transport regulations: Interpret Inland Water Transport (IWT) regulations in order to implement them into practice. Consult IWT regulation to ensure full legal compliance.
  • Monitor the discharge of cargo: Develop cargo discharge plan and monitor the performance of the cranes that offload cargo from the vessel; ensure that relevant occupational safety requirements are met at all times.
  • Recognise abnormalities on board: Identify anomalies and abnormalities on board, evaluate them, and take appropriate actions to restore normal operation of ship. Check all (safety) systems for operational functions. Organise actions to be taken in the event of an identified problem.
  • Use maritime english: Communicate in English employing language used in actual situations on board ships, in ports and elsewhere in the shipping chain.
  • Conduct performance tests: Conduct experimental, environmental and operational tests on models, prototypes or on the systems and equipment itself in order to test their strength and capabilities under normal and extreme conditions.
  • Distinguish various types of ships: Recognise and name various types of vessels common in European maritime transport; understand the different characteristics, construction details, and tonnage capacities of different vessels.
  • Read stowage plans: Read and comprehend content of stowage plans; basic knowledge of how to stow various types of cargo.
  • Adhere to traffic regulations on inland waterways: Understand and apply traffic rules in inland waterway navigation in order to ensure safety and avoid collisions.
  • Ensure equipment maintenance: Ensure that the equipment required for operations is regularly checked for faults, that routine maintenance tasks are performed, and that repairs are scheduled and performed in the case of damage or flaws.
  • Have computer literacy: Utilise computers, IT equipment and modern day technology in an efficient way.
  • Identify risks of ship activities: Identify risks that accompany ship activities, and the effectiveness of the risk assessment and control measures in place on the vessel.
  • Calculate the amount of cargo on a vessel: Determine the weight of cargo on tanker ships and cargo vessels. Calculate the exact amount of loaded cargo or cargo to be discharged.
  • Review ship documentation: Review ship documentation related to cargo shipping permits, public health information, crew members and activities, and other compliance regulation.

ISCO group and title

3115 – Mechanical engineering technicians

  1. Marine surveyor – ESCO
  2. How to become a Marine Surveyor – Salary, Qualifications, Skills & Reviews – SEEK
  3. Who is a Marine Surveyor – Marine Insight
  4. Marine Surveyor – Jobs and Skills WA
  5. Featured image: By CSIRO, CC BY 3.0
Last updated on March 8, 2023