- The Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, Middle East Branch has initiated the Capt. Harry Subramaniam Memorial Knowledge Series and in which they cover various topics related to the industry in a webinar. Capt. Harry Subramaniam was one of India’s greatest seafarer mentors who unfortunately passed away in June 2020i. The webinar we recently attended was on Risk Mitigation Actions following an incident in which Capt. Zarir Iraniii and Capt. John Nobleiii discussed on the engagement of surveyors together with the importance of the surveyor’s professionalism. Kudos to the speakers and the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers Middle East Branch on this wonderful initiative.
- Following a maritime loss, maritime parties would invariably engage surveyors to attend to ascertain the nature, cause and extent of loss, if any and, in this way, protect their interests. If there are many parties involved (Owners, Charterers, Container Operators, NVOCC’s, Cargo interests and the various insurers), invariably there would be many surveyors attending for the same incident. The question which we have is whether two or more parties could and should engage the same surveyor to report on the loss i.e., nature, cause, and extent of loss?iv Or do the parties have concerns on the objectivity of the “common” survey report or the surveyor being conflicted in his joint engagement?
- In our view, a surveyor, irrespective of who engages them, has an independent duty to report factually on the loss . Broadly speaking, the surveyors report on the nature and the alleged cause would assist in ascertaining the liability (be it the Owners, Charterers, Carriers, Cargo insurers, etc.) while the extent of loss would help in determining the quantum of claim, if any. Given that the surveyors role is fact-finding, we submit that there should not be much divergence on the conclusions reported irrespective of who is actually being engaged. By way of an analogy, if we send a blood test to two different laboratories, each should provide similar test results. We admit that if the blood tests are conducted by different methods, the results may then well vary. However, if the tests are standardized, then the results should be the same.
- We have had the opportunity to discuss this issue with Capt. Zarir and who mentioned that joint engagements of surveyors are common in some type of surveys such as bunker, vessel delivery/redelivery, loss prevention, classification, SIRE and SCR. This being the case, the issue we have raised is not something novel and which cannot be accomplished. Instead, it appears to us that where there are contentious issues or a trust deficit, parties prefer to engage their “own” surveyor.
- Given that autonomous shipping will become a reality sooner than later, we believe that this will result in the reduction of the traditional pool of manpower pool available to the marine survey industry. This being the case, one of the ways is to relook on the joint engagement of surveyors. Our intention is not to reduce surveyor’s fee’s. Instead, we submit that if the same surveyor is engaged by multiple parties, parties would not question an increase in the surveyor’s fee’s as joint engagement may not only result in reduction of time and effort spent on arguing which surveyors report should be preferred but also in the reduction of total costs incurred in the investigation of the incident. We are aware that parties would have different interests i.e., cargo interests would be interested to ascertain if their loss falls for consideration under a cargo insurance policy while the carrier’s interest would be to ascertain if the loss is due to their fault or negligence such that they would have to deal with the loss. A common report could touch on all the issues factually and leave it to parties to decide as to how they wish to progress further in respect of their recovery/defence of a claim.
- We are reminded of the famous speech by, Mr. E R Lindleyv, in which he alluded to the Average Adjusters being beneficial parasites. We believe that Surveyors also fall under the similar class of beneficial parasites and therefore would welcome the Survey industry to consider ways and means to optimize their use / engagement, particularly when the N Covid 19 era has tested the industry in many ways including provision of access. Perhaps, we are being very simplistic and therefore would be happy to hear from both the survey industry and users to see whether the survey practices could be optimised to better suit their needs.
i. Capt Harry was the author of the Nutshell Series and which includes Nautical Watchkeeping, Marine Meteorology, Ship Stability at the Operational Level, etc.
ii. Capt Zarir Irani is the Founder and Principal surveyor at Constellation Marine Services.
iii. Capt John Noble has a chequered survey career and is presently a Director at Constellation Marine Services.
iv. This is indeed not a novel question and many others have raised the same question. The author recalls that his former boss, Mr. Robert Gordon, the founder and the then Managing Director of Seasia P&I Services had raised this during discussions in one of the seminars which he attended.
v. Mr. E R Lindley, the then Chairman of the Association of Average Adjusters in his address to the association in 1904 stated “The use of the adjuster individually is to grease the wheels of commercial machinery, to do work which neither the assured nor the underwriter have either time, training or inclination for, in such a manner as to expedite settlements without resort to the expensive machinery of the law: His duty is act fairly to both parties to the contract of insurance or contract of carriage, to set down all material facts, withholding nothing of importance, to present the figures of the suggested settlement in such a manner as to be capable of being easily grasped, and above all, in all cases wherever definite law or practice is not clear, to place the matter before the parties interested in such a manner as to facilitate an agreement between them. Adjusters acting in this sense well deserve the name of beneficent parasites”