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Can a marine surveyor successfully conduct P&I and H&M Surveys?

by Ieuan Dolby

Can a l P&I Surveyor properly conduct an H&M survey and vice versa?

 "Yes" – with reservation.

Many years ago, I began a career as a consultant / surveyor – primarily working cases with the major P&I Clubs in Asia. I attended for a large number of major casualties and I had more Captains crying on my shoulder than I care to remember. Then, after a few years I changed jobs and with this change I abruptly fell headlong into H&M work. I admit, it was an unexpected learning curve, one which taught me a valuable lesson. I quickly learnt that conducting an H&M survey and compiling the subsequent report must be conducted differently than a P&I survey – and from the outset.

In essence, an H&M surveyor is on board as a representative of the underwriters, primarily attending to ascertain the cause, nature and extent of an occurrence and potentially to monitor repairs and comment on accounts. A P&I surveyor is on board to protect the interests of the member.

To act incorrectly (to misunderstand the role) during a survey, will usually create a situation whereby evidence is missed, barriers are created, and / or appropriate assistance is not / or inadequately provided. Whilst each casualty or occurrence will require a different set of skills and input, the nuances of the surveyor's position, role and duty must be clearly understood before a foot is placed on the gangway. What is then found on board can be assimilated and dealt with in the best possible way, in calm and efficient manner. A clear and unambiguous understanding of the difference between the two roles will dictate the level of insistence used during the collection of evidence, time spent on board, communications, and in the level of control utilized. And, such understanding will affect the information that is then written into a report. 

During my career I have witnessed H&M surveyors getting upset if they are not promptly entertained and I have seen P&I surveyors sulking (for want of a better description) because the evidence they have requested has been declined. However, this type of reaction is usually the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of why they are on board and how they should go about their duties.

As with all cases, nothing is cut and dried. An example of a plan (expectation) gone awry was when I arrived on board a grounded Cape Size bulk carrier in a remote area in Indonesia. I was the P&I representative of the member, the vessel's owner. The trip out took longer than a day and involved ferries, dilapidated trucks, a motorbike and a canoe – and upon arriving at the vessel I found it listing to starboard by thirty degrees. I duly clambered on board and met with the Captain. I introduced myself, I clearly explained who I was, and I detailed my instructions – in essence, to assist and protect the members interests. He though did not understand. He immediately refused to allow me to enter the accommodation, despite my saying again that I was his P&I Club's surveyor.

I ended up sleeping the night outside on the bridge wing (my canoe had long since disappeared). I chose the higher bridge wing, just in case the list increased – nothing but myself and a horde of mosquitoes. It was a full two days before the Chinese Captain finally understood (or accepted) that I was there to assist – and only after many phone calls between him and his managers.

The point being, if I myself had not clearly understood why I was on board then it would have been an impossible task to explain such to the master. But I remained calm throughout (I vented my frustration on the mosquitoes) and two weeks later the Captain shook my hand and with utmost sincerity thanked me for all my hard work and assistance (he never mentioned the initial hiccup). And throughout, from canoe to canoe, I was secure in the knowledge of my position and what I was there to do.

In my opinion, a dedicated P&I surveyor should only undertake an H&M survey if he / she has clear understanding of what is required. The result of missed or incorrect understanding can rapidly result in a poor survey being conducted and valuable information being missed, culminating in statements being made in the end report that are non-retractable: resulting in potential friction between the underwriters and the insured.

But if a surveyor understands the nuances of a P&I /H&M surveys then he / she will be able to utilize their amassed skills to the benefit of the member, claims handler or client in any situation and on any type of case.

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