Introduction of a survey
THE ROLE OF SURVEYORS
Ever since the early principles of general average, there has existed a need for cargo surveyors. It is often perceived that only cargo insurers appoint cargo surveyors. However, it must be remembered that all parties involved in the transportation and handling of goods ( viz. importers, exporters, ship-owners, P&I clubs, cargo insurers, charterers, stevedores, storage contractors or agents ) have the need, on occasion, for independent cargo surveyors.
One main factor links all the above potential clients : they all rely heavily on the final product of the surveyor ~ the survey report ~ for clarity, accuracy and the knowledge that the case has been handled with expertise.
It has been rightly said that the cargo surveyor is the eyes and ears of the clients
The appointment of the cargo surveyor is generally considered to be the arrival of " the expert ". Whilst an experienced surveyor will be fully acquainted with the general principles of surveying,
The purposes of the survey are :
- Investigate the nature and extent of damage or loss and to establish the possible cause.
- Assist claimants, without prejudice, on methods necessary to mitigate the loss.
- Issue a factual survey report to enable any liability to be determined by the clients.
- Make recommendations to prevent same type of damage or loss occurring in the future.
GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF SURVEY
Source of instruction
In the first instance a surveyor, when being appointed, should be fully aware of his client's involvement, either as cargo insurer, P & I interest, carrier's liability or some other contractor.
Without prejudice agreements
The surveyor should always act entirely without prejudice to liability, and in all correspondence and communications agreements must be clearly made without prejudice.
Following receipt of instructions, the surveyor should ensure that claimants have held all parties concerned responsible. The surveyor should then establish whether other surveyors have been appointed so that a joint survey can, if possible, be arranged. Local requirements should not be overlooked at the stage. Surveyors representing all interests should be given the opportunity to attend a joint survey. Failure to issue this invitation could prejudice any claim or recovery action.
At joint surveys, it is better if surveyors can work together to reach an agreement on quantum and cause, as this means subsequent costly litigation can normally be avoided. In all discussions, however, surveyors should protect the interests of their particular client with on acceptance of liability and should not divulge sensitive information without seeking further instructions from their client.
Frequently, on arrival the surveyor is regarded as - the expert - Whilst the surveyor may have particular knowledge of certain cargoes and the general procedures in respect of survey, he / she may not have the particular expertise necessary for the commodity or product he / she is surveying. In such instances it is important that the surveyor recognizes his / her limitations and, with the agreement of his / her client, appoints an outside expert to assist.
In instances where the surveyor considers that the cause of a condition found in cargo is due to a manufacturing defect, or is of a pre-shipment origin, the claimant should told, in order that the appropriate party can be informed to give it the opportunity to instruct a surveyor to inspect the cargo on its behalf prior to any disposal.
Surveyors should at all times endeavor to obtain as much factual information as possible at time of survey relating to the transportation of the cargo. Accuracy in respect of this information will greatly assist in reaching a conclusion as to when or where the damage or loss took place and eventually where the liability falls. As a cargo surveyor it is sometime difficult to obtain information from third parties, and in such instances, if the information is withheld, a formal request should be made in writing to the third party and its surveyors. This letter should be included with the cargo surveyor's report.
Method of establishing the extent of loss / depreciation
Here lies the expertise of the surveyor. First, once it has been establish that a loss or damage has taken place, the commodity or product is therefore subject to depreciation, which can be established by one of the following methods.
1/. Depreciation allowance
3/. Reconditioning / repairs
4/. Disposal of goods
The survey report is one of the documents on which liability of a party may later be established. In such circumstances it is important that the surveyor issues an accurate report with as much detail as possible regarding the nature and extent of damage and / or loss the cause(s) thereof. As much information as possible should also be given concerning the packaging as well as details of the transport chain, giving accurate dates of transfer of control at any stage during the period of transportation.
In instances where there is multiple damage, i.e. breakage, water damage, etc. the surveyors should ensure that they show in their report an apportionment of loss against each cause.
This information will be of assistance in any future recovery action.
The surveyor should also make recommendations regarding any improvements in methods of packaging, stowage and securing, transportation or warehousing in order to prevent a repetition of the damage or loss.
Under normal circumstances the surveyor's expertise is judged by the reliability of his survey report.