Editorial September 2005 Issue

Skeptical on Surveyors

At Practical Sailor, we like to dig deep when researching a topic for these pages. That stems in part from our obligation to readers, and from our attitude of healthy skepticism.

In this issue, we report on marine surveyors, and we offer the following preamble for that piece, which arises from this skeptical outlook.

Practitioners in this profession are represented in the U.S. by two organizations—NAMS (National Association of Marine Surveyors) and SAMS (Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors). The former was established in 1962, and has been in business 25 years longer than the latter.

Members of NAMS tend to be full-time surveyors who are prohibited by the organization's code of ethics from also operating as brokers or boat maintenance or repair personnel. Not so with SAMS members. SAMS, too, has a code of ethics, but its members are essentially free to operate in any capacity they wish so long as they "avoid prejudice and conflict of interest" while working. And that's where things begin to get a little gray.

Neil Haynes, a veteran marine surveyor who is both NAMS certified and SAMS accredited, has grave concerns about the state of this industry due to the growing trend of unethical practices that he has observed.

"Mind you, I'm a cynic," Haynes told us, "but I've got ample evidence to show what has moved me to that attitude."

Among the problems Haynes identifies are too many marine surveyors who he says do a disservice to boat owners by agreeing to write favorable surveys simply to facilitate a sale or secure an insurance policy. Often, he adds, some surveyors simply don't do a thorough enough job and fail to discover real problems.

"In at least 30% of the claims that I handle, the boats shouldn't have been insured in the first place. They're just in really bad shape. Unfortunately, you have individuals (surveyors) who are willing to rubber stamp a boat simply to expedite business, and you have insurance brokers and lending institutions that all want this too."

Haynes believes that the profession has been lax in policing its members' ethical conduct. "Our best solution would be more emphasis placed on ethics in the industry. If ethical breaches are submitted to NAMS and SAMS, serious review should follow and appropriate action be taken to protect the public as well as the organizations. We are on a slippery slope as a profession, and if our children and grandchildren are to experience what pleasure or gain we have enjoyed in the marine industry, surveyors need to tighten up."

What do readers say? Send us your thoughts and experiences on this topic and we'll air them.

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Handheld GPS Breakthrough
The hits just keep coming from Garmin, the Olathe, Kansas, manufacturer of satellite-based wayfinders. Following the success of the Garmin 276, the company will soon offer the Garmin 376, which features a dedicated XM radio downlink offering satellite radio, but more importantly weather data. Our sister publication Aviation Consumer has reviewed the aviation variant of the 376—the Garmin 396—and reports that the new units will have bells and whistles galore. In addition to the standard plotting features,the new Garmin units give users thunderstorm location, intensity, track, and lightning strike data. And, these units offer wind barbs at various altitudes. We haven't seen the 376, but it's likely to come with Garmin's proprietary Blue Chart navigation suite. We'll report more when we get our hands on one.


—Dan Dickison

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