Coronavirus makes an urgent rethink for the marine surveying profession mandatory

Since I recently published my most recent Coronavirus advice to marine surveyors who travel internationally for work, the situation surrounding the pandemic has worsened dramatically in just a few days. The world we knew has ended abruptly. Put simply, marine surveyors are certain not to be travelling cross-border for work given the alacrity with which most countries are racing to close their borders.

This presents a challenge to the marine surveying profession like never before and one which none of us has witnessed in our lifetimes – and there is no easy or obvious solution either.

As individuals our first priority is to keep ourselves and our immediate family safe and healthy – and I urge you to do that. Of secondary importance, but nonetheless vital, is the need to drive an income to enable us to support and feed our families. For those surveyors who routinely travelled the world on surveying assignments, this presents a set of new challenge and rules.

What about those who are required to attend ships for certification and statutory purposes?

This will be a significant challenge, especially with certification as there will be problems related to the transportation and provision of personnel, for example superintendents, inspectors, vetting officers, class and or P&I club surveyors visiting ships and so on.

I have yet to see much practical advice of any value being offered, other than meetings being routinely cancelled! Will extensions to mandatory deadlines be granted until this pandemic is over? Common sense must surely prevail one would hope. Can aspects of the survey be done remotely using modern remote technology? They can, but will they be permissible? Whilst we don’t want dangerous ships or unseaworthy boats at sea, my message to the collective worldwide maritime authorities and regulators, therefore, is to ‘cut some slack’ whilst the international movement of surveyors, inspectors and auditors is frozen and to show strong leadership and guidance.

Cargo and container operations

There are ports and terminals closed for operations, which will cause subsequent delays. The time schedule of cargoes affected by environmental conditions could cause major headaches. The schedule of both loaded and/or empty containers will be disturbed. Additional challenges will occur when other personnel are brought in to the equation such as stevedores and shore technicians, who can increase the possibility of infection.

Certifying Authority vessel coding

IIMS has had several enquiries from operators, charterers and surveyors about vessels on the verge of going out of code in places like Italy and Spain, currently in lock-down. We are trying to get an urgent response from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency as to what can or should be done in these circumstances. The rules are strict, but a way needs to be found to enable these vessels to be certified with a temporary extension granted if required.

I would certainly reach out to marine surveyors worldwide and those who engage surveyors, or who touch the surveying profession and say:

“IIMS is the only organisation that has an international network of 800 practicing, competent and experienced marine surveyors in all disciplines of the trade.

“If you are unable to personally take the client instruction at this time, or cannot fly a surveyor around the world for your assignment following an incident, please consider engaging a local in-country surveyor from the IIMS network who may be able to help. Already we are seeing this as an emerging and sensible trend. It means surveying can continue, even if in a slimmed down fashion for the time being. The IIMS surveyor search facility will help you.“

I can only hope, as you do, that this pandemic passes through quickly and allows a sense of normality to resume soon, even if that new normality looks rather different from what we knew.

Stay safe.

Mike Schwarz

IIMS Chief Executive Officer

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