Forensic Surveying For The Modern Surveyor

When the marine surveyor arrives at a casualty these days it is our philosophy that to establish the root cause of the incident and to assist us in resolving any subsequent technical issues, we have to use all reasonable means available to enable us to take a utgfforensic and technical approach.

The nature of the tools available to the surveyor today, due to the rapid recent development of technology, has changed significantly in the last few years to such an extent that the modern surveyor now has the luxury of an array of equipment choices. The modern surveyor needs to be in a position to know when and how these choices can be applied to the benefit of all concerned.

Basic Equipment

At BraemarSA Far East, for example, typically at any one time a surveyor would have the basic tools available if needed and by this I mean in addition to the usual notebook, torch, 5 metre tape measure and camera. However, we are taking this a step further now with the following equipment available in Singapore.

When we arrive at a major hull bottom damage in a dry dock sometimes the usual pocket sized 5 metre measuring tape is not adequate to measure significant ruptures: A 50 metre tape measure will save significant time and ensure accuracy. Once the steel is being replaced then a sure fire way of checking the scantling thickness of plating before and after is by means of a simple ultrasonic thickness tester, to establish if the correct replacement specifications are being met. This is applicable for both new build and damage repair scenarios. Despite the fact heavy reliance is placed on the use of approved NDT (non-destructive testing) contractors, it is always good practice for the independent surveyor to be equipped with this simple tool. When dealing with possible contentious matters of steel corrosion or scantling thickness, a simple test can alert a surveyor to the need for the presence of NDT experts:

Precision ultrasonic micrometer

The marine Diesel engine and technical failures generally, which form a large part of our work, can become complex and when disputes arise it is essential that detailed and accurate data is collected. For this purpose we make vernier calipers and micrometers available to our technical surveyors.

• Mirror
• Magnifying glass
• Micrometers and verniers




One of the simplest, cheapest yet consistently underused tools is the magnet – not only can it be used for magnification but can be used for retrieving tools dropped into the bilges. 

With almost every machine with moving parts reliant on good quality lubrication, we do see frequent need to establish whether the ferrous products of wear are being removed from an engine oil or hydraulic system, both of which are particularly sensitive to unwelcome detritus. Dipping a telescopic magnet into an oil tank or filter unit can tell a story.
ws4ws3 •Telescopic magnet

Temperature Measurementws5

When investigating failures, performing loss prevention or machinery sea trials we need to be able to ascertain actual temperatures. Whilst machinery is invariably equipped with temperature monitoring equipment these are sometimes damaged or not positioned particularly well.

An engineer will often tell you that if you can place your hand on a hot surface and keep it there then the temperature is around 50oC (for the average human that is). To be more forensic these days, and with the development of infra-red (IR) technology, we can do better than that.


Everyone has a camera now by virtue of the fact they carry a mobile phone. However, to produce a good forensic photograph, which can be a crucial piece of evidence, more is needed.

In order to produce evidence and report photographs on tankers and gas carriers, and their respective loading and discharge terminals. the only way is to have the appropriate intrinsically safe equipment. 

A variety of tools are now easily available to the surveyor. The boroscope is a perfect means of inspecting inaccessible areas for that crucial piece of evidence.

• Microscope
• Boroscope

To be able to microscopically examine hydraulic oil for contaminants, or a mechanical component for cracks or cylinder liners for possible cat fine damage, this is entirely possible nowadays with a relatively cheap USB microscope.

Fibreglass Hulls

The fibre glass hull, which we often see when carrying out pre-purchase and condition surveys small to medium sized small craft, is susceptible to moisture retention and subsequent effects of osmosis which if left untreated can lead to hull failures.

In order to detect the water retention in such a hull a moisture detector is often used which is better and gives a more quantifiable reading when compared with the traditional sounding with rubber mallet method.

Machinery Performance Indicators

When assessing the performance of mechanical equipment it is essential to have basic tools available: Temperature of bearings heat up as wear progresses as does vibration. Readings can be taken annually so that trends can be monitored. With a simple vibration meter and IR camera we can do basic tests on whether the base line data has altered from new.

Similarly a lot can be taken from a properly collected, examined and trended lubrication oil analysis. We have access to an independent laboratory that can provide quick ISO examinations with a professional chemist’s evaluation.

The best means of determining an engine’s performance is to take peak combustion pressure readings and make comparisons with shop trial results.

When used correctly, a Meggar is by far the best tool to use, in order to quickly establish whether the insulation resistance of electric motor windings are in good condition or an electrical system is experiencing leakage to earth.

Hatch cover testing

With cargo damage a major cost for P&I insurers and seaworthiness a concern for H&M and P&I having a ws10UT cargo hatch cover tester available at every office is nowadays a must. The technology has developed steadily over the last 10 years on this equipment and nowadays rugged, transportable user friendly testers are available that can produce a quantifiable reading which, in the hands of a qualified operator, will allow accurate detection and mapping of even the smallest leak sources.

• UT hatch cover tester 

Nowadays there are a number of choices of manufacturers of this equipment available to surveyors and ship owners alike, most of whom can offer training courses, servicing, repair, rental, calibration every two years and the approval of some Class Societies to boot.

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Technical Features