How do You as a Crew member act during Inspections?

I decided to start a new thread to ask a hard question, what brings this up is the discussion on the loss of El Faro and the condition of El Yunque.

So, how do you as either CE or Captain (or all of the Crew) handle inspections?

Do you try to steer the ABS or CG Inspectors towards problem areas or do you just let them do there own thing and wait to see if the find them?

If anyone would rather NOT post anything themselves, sent me a message and I’ll post it so no one knows who says what. I’m hoping to get an honest discussion started about yard periods and do not want this to turn into a bitching contest about who is better or worse.

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Long long ago, in a galaxy far far away, I was Mate on an AHTS that went into the Shipyard for several weeks.

We were almost next door to a nice restaurant and watering hole called Shanghai Red’s. Most of the shipyard’s safety meeting consisted of the sternest possible warning to never walk out of the Shipyard gate, not even to go to Shanghai Red’s. Always take a taxi. They said it was the kind of neighborhood where someone got shot on the street about once a month for no good reason. I forget what that area was called, but for some reason we called it Angola. It was a longer taxi ride, but not too expensive to Gilley’s, where we rode the same mechanical bull that John Travolta had just popularized while romancing Debra Winger in a movie called Urban Cowboy.

The USCG inspector spoke openly and proudly about how he was going to retire in a few months and become a Marine superintendent at our company. So of course he became known as “Company Man.” The very young ABS surveyor had a spotless white boilersuit that somehow never got dirty and he had the same well maintained hairdo as John Travolta in one of those disco movies. We called him the Disco Kid.

The vessel was basically sound, but it had been beaten hard in The Gulf, Newfoundland, the North Sea and Africa for years. Company Man and Disco Kid did a five year special survey on the dry dock. They were there for hours almost every day. There was lots of steel work, sandblasting, painting, new zincs, shaft, wheel and rudder refurbishment, and a variety of other things going on.

Company Man and Disco Kid supposedly crawled all the tanks, but when she went overboard, she had an unexpected list. It turned out that one of the supposedly empty and gas free tanks contained a large quantity of fuel. That tank had just had several zincs welded onto its shell plate. Fortunately, the tank had so much fuel that the zincs were below the fuel level and welding them on did not cause an explosion. Company Man buried it bullshit excuses, but Disco Kid was really embarrassed.

The crew pointed out a few problems that were being overlooked to Company Man and Disco Kid. Some were corrected, some ignored, some were 835’s for next inspection. We had been trying to get the company to put an electric motor on the anchor windlass for months (it had been taken off for repair, but was beyond repair). The port engineer told the captain we’d have to wait awhile longer for the motor. I asked the captain: “what can we do to get a motor”? He replied in true Gulf mudboat fashion that: “The only thing a sailor cares about is getting the anchor down, getting it back is the company’s problem.” First, I asked Disco Kid about the motor. He replied that ABS inspection dealt with structure and watertight integrity, not anchor windlasses. As soon as I got a good chance to confer with Company Man over at Shanghai Red’s, I asked him to address the missing motor on the Anchor windlass. He said he’d make sure the company supplied a new motor. He issued an 835 requiring that the new motor be installed within two months.

Near the end of the shipyard period, Company Man and Disco Kid were finished, but an insurance surveyor unexpectedly showed up and started looking around. The captain and Chief were at over at Shanghai Reds with the port engineer. The Insurance surveyor found alarming wiring problems in the engine room (there were lots of hanging wires, and some were hot dead ends). He came to the wheelhouse and asked for the captain. I said: Captain’s ashore, but I’m the Mate.” He said when are you sailing. I said in a couple days. He said I found some serious problems with wiring in the engineroom, and I’m just getting started. This boat isn’t going anywhere until these problems are properly fixed. So I showed him the anchor windlass lacking a motor, all the 835’s, and a few other things. When we left the shipyard a week later, there was a new motor on the anchor windlass, and most of the other 835s and crew identified items were fixed, along with a good number of issues the insurance surveyor found himself.

None of this, other than the extra week of delay, seemed to bother the company a bit.


Shanghai Reds, next to Bludworth shipyard, was there in the mid '90s on a seismic boat, they told us the same story about going there, dangerous neighborhood, people getting shot, always be back on the boat before dark.

Good topic.

It was late in my career when I ran across this:

All licensed officers are required by 46 U.S.C. 3315 to assist the marine
inspector and to point out all known defects and imperfections. Inspectors
should inquire about deficiencies from the master and chief engineer, and
should be receptive to all reports of deficiencies made by the ship’s officers and
crew. In each case, the reported deficiency should be checked into and
corrective action required where indicated. A note concerning each complaint
of deficiency should be included in the inspector’s report. Inspectors should be
aware that 46 U.S.C. 3315 prohibits the disclosure of the sources of
information about deficiencies.


I can only tell you how I handle inspection as a 3rd Part Surveyor/Inspector.
It depends a bit on the reason for the inspection, whether for Insurance, vetting, suitability or pre-S&P condition etc.

The first impression when you get on board is important. A dirty, badly rigged gangway, (or worse, no proper access) will get my hackles up.

The attitude of the Master, Officers and especially the Chief Engineer, during the pre-survey briefing will inevitably affect the way I go about the inspection.
A friendly and cooperative attitude and I may point out faults that can be corrected “instantly” by the crew, thus not gong in the report, reflecting badly on their performance.

I may also let the them know that I’m open for suggestions and hints as to what they have been trying to get done, but got negative or no reaction from Management.

With the SMS in force I may also advise them to use Non-conformity reporting, although many are reluctant to do so, since this is frowned upon by the management. I would be backing that up in my report.

Of course not all Surveyors/Inspectors do it the same way, nor has everybody got the same background and experience. We all also have our pet subject and grievances, which will reflex on the way we do the inspections and what goes in the report.


In the late 70’s and early 80’s, it was called Bludworth Bond Shipyard. They told us not to walk out the gate even during daylight, but we did. Back then, no one would have suggested that sailors stay aboard and not go into town after dark.

I spent 6 months or so in Bloodworth, Bloodworth Bond, and Newpark shipyards in 81 and '82. We had 7 repoed AHTS and mudboats with all expired certs. CG and ABS allowed very few shortcuts. The port engineer was top notch and took care of most everything. A couple of the CG inspectors were about to retire and were looking for a job. I made all of the overhauls of the Nohab, Stork and MWM engines. Crawled all of the tanks and pressure tested with ABS.

Shanghi Red’s was a regular stop. Also the icehouse across Broadway from the MEBA hall and Charlie’s House were regular meeting places also…

Well, maybe this wasn’t the best idea. I really thought we could get a discussion on how crews act with inspectors aboard and that it could help the news guys coming up.

One Tug that I worked on out of NYC had to have a Cement Box put on a Sea Chest. I was told / Ordered not to point it out to ABS during an inspection. Well, I never said anything but I did turn off most of the lights and then left a work light shining on the Cement Box! Hell, I did everything but paint an arrow pointing to it and ABS still walked right passed it! It was repaired shortly after this but I was still pissed at ABS.

Another time, I had a ABS guy pull me aside and ask me what I wanted done that the company would not fix. I looked at him and said nope all good thinking I was being setup but he said I’m being straight with you just point me in the right direction. So, I mentioned our Air Compressors being a little worn out. He went down with the PE and asked to have to Compressors started up, then wrote them up. We sailed with two brand new compressors. So, I guess Inspections can go both ways.


When I did a Tow Approval survey on a J/U rig I found two cement boxes covering damages in a preload tank. I was informed that ABS had approved it until next drydocking.
I refused to accept that and told them that “cement boxes are for temporary repairs, you don’t leave from safe port with them”.
ABS protested that I could not override their decision, but I was backed up by my company and the clients. (Non-compliance, no insurance)

It helps a lot if the captain and chief are on the same page as to what needs to be corrected but we have had some success getting issues corrected.

Even so it’s hit or miss. The chief had the CG write up a couple 835s one time and the port engineer lost his shit about it. The issues were corrected but the company assumed that we wouldn’t have gotten any 835s if we had our act together.


I have gotten to the point in my career that I do absolutely nothing to try and conceal a problem. I will specifically point it out if I believe it to be a true problem. Fire me if they want to. I have had one or two good U.S.C.G. Inspectors pull me to the side and ask off the record if there are any issues that need to be addressed and if the company is addressing problems and supporting us as they should.


Usually during an Inspection I will lock myself in my day-room.

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For the 39 years I sailed, for the most part, I never had much problem with proper maintenance. For a few months, I was tasked with keeping junk afloat in West Africa. After that, I was a little more particular of who I worked for on the non union jobs. The last 24 years I sailed were union jobs with set working rules and protection. I had great relationship with the CG inspectors, ABS and most of the port engineers. The only problem in my last year was dealing with my port engineer at the end of the fiscal year and his bonus.

Grateful to be in an union gov’t job where there are some protections against retaliation. We have had some humiliating incidents in the past several years. One of the ships in our fleet- a willful polluter. Gladly never worked on that one. Thankfully, perpetrators no longer work here. I have a strong sense of ethics and will not hide an illegal or frankly dangerous condition from a surveyor or inspector. On the other hand I know to step aside and let the Chief and the inspector do their thing. I’m a low person on the totem pole these days.


I think there has to be a balance, we have to be loyal to the company we work for and at the same time as Master we are responsible for the safety of all on-board as well as the environment and the vessel. No vessel is perfect, and never will be, they come out new from the yard with plenty missing
items and still approved by all. If you are working for a serious company they will make sure that all safety related items are all in perfect condition, unfortunately not all companies think safety first, and then we on-board have a problem. For many seaman there are no protection from retaliation from the operator, our contracts basically ends each tour. There are money in a good inspection report, and staying on budget, the problem with this system is that often then the focus will be on the appearance, and not on the safety.

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