Surveys Onboard a Ship

Surveys are conducted onboard a ship to check the strength, safety equipments and to check whether the ship is operational for voyage or not. Survey improves the ship safety and it also provides safety to seafarers working on ship. It is conducted by a qualified Marine Surveyor. The whole purpose of survey is to enhance the ship’s safety and provide protection to mariners.

Importance of Survey:

All steel ships are assigned a class. To maintain that class, ship undergoes different type of surveys conducted periodically. It is required by all ships irrespective of their nature (Passenger, Cargo and pilot boats etc.)

Types of Survey:

  1. Initial Survey
  2. Annual Survey
  3. Intermediate Survey
  4. Renewal Survey
  5. Additional Survey

1. Initial Survey: The initial survey is held before the ship is put in service or when a new device is added to an existing ship, and the relevant certificate is issued to that ship. The initial survey includes a complete inspection, with tests, when necessary, of the structure, machinery and instruments to ensure that the requirements relevant to the particular certificate are compiled with structure, machinery and ships instruments are fit for the service and for voyage.

The initial survey consists of:

A inspection of plans, posters, specifications, calculations and other technical documentation to verify that the structure, machinery and equipment comply with appropriate certificate.

An inspection of the structure, machinery and equipment to ensure that the materials, scantlings, construction and arrangement are appropriate and in accordance with the official plans, calculations and other technical aspects

A check is made to ensure that all the certificates, record books, operating manuals, documentations and other additional information specified in the requirements is present onboard.

2. Annual Survey: As the name says annual it means that, annual survey is conducted once a year with leeway of 3 months. It is required by all the ships. A surveyor inspects all the equipment (LSA, FFA) and everything else during annual survey.
Example- Load Line Survey

An annual survey allows the administration to verify the condition of ship and its equipment whether it is being maintained in accordance to the regulations

It consists of a certificate examination, a visual examination of the ship and its equipment, and certain tests to ensure that their condition is being properly maintained according to conventions


The content of each annual survey is given in their respective guidelines. It should also include a visual examination to confirm that no unapproved modifications have been made to ship and its equipment

3. Intermediate Survey: Generally, it is conducted after 2.5 years of previous survey certification or after the third anniversary date of the appropriate certificate and should take place after one of the annual surveys.

The intermediate survey is inspection of items appropriate to particular certificate to ensure equipment are working in good conditions and they are seaworthy.

When specifying items of hull and machinery for detailed examination, due account shall be taken of any continuous survey schemes that they are in a satisfactory condition and they are fit for service and voyage.

4.Renewal Survey: It is conducted before the appropriate certificate is renewed. The renewal survey should consist of an inspection, with tests when necessary, of the structure and machinery spaces to ensure that relevant certificates are compiled with the equipment checked during survey. All certificates, record books, check list, recording manuals and other documents are also checked during Renewal survey.

5. Additional Survey: Whenever accidents occur to a ship or any damage is caused which affects the safety or integrity of ship or the efficiency or completeness of its equipment, the master or owner should make a report as soon as possible and submitted to the administration, the nominated surveyor or recognized organization responsible for issuing that particular certificate should then initiate an investigation/inspection to determine whether a survey, as required by the regulations applicable to the particular certificate, is necessary. This additional survey, should be such as to confirm that the repairs and any renewals have been effectively made and the ship and its instruments are fit for ship and for further voyage.

Some Other Surveys

  • Continuous Survey: It is normally known as continuous survey of machinery, Some Classification societies such as IR, LR and ABS require that all machinery spaces of ships under their rules must be surveyed every 5 years
  • Special Survey: Normally, it is due after 5 years from the date of built or previous date of special survey. Cargo holds, deep tanks, DB Tanks and bilges etc. are inspected. It is also helpful for guarantee claims after 1 year of delivery of Ships.
  • Docking survey: It is conducted twice in 5 years. In this survey a special attention is given to areas that may not be accessed like rudder, stern frame and propellers during routine vessel operation at sea.
  • Damage Survey: It is performed to assess the extent of damage sustained by vessel in routine and extra ordinary circumstances, this survey is required by insurance companies and hull underwriters when a damage claim has been submitted to determine the probable cause and extent of damage.
  • Repair Survey: It is conducted when a repair of vessel is done to asses the status of vessel that she is seaworthy and she has been restored to the condition as she was before damage. Surveys onboard a merchant ship can be divided further in major group:
  • Class survey:
    1. Special hull survey
    2. Special machinery survey
    3. Annual survey for hull & machinery
    4. Intermediate survey, hull survey
  • Statutory Survey:
    1. Load line survey
    2. Safety Construction
    3. Safety Equipment
    4. GMDSS
  • Other Survey:
    1. Cargo Survey
    2. Administration Survey

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