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Old 04-18-2013
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Re: Angry at my surveyor....

A few thoughts from a 30-year sailor and API licensed inspector of large oil tanks.There are many concepts in common that have not been discussed. The items seemed pretty reasonable.

1. Whether soft wood is a standard (may not be as my understanding is that they are construction standards and not suitability for use standards) is semantics. He has to evaluate suitability for service.

2. In general, if I do not use VERY stern wording in inspection reports, the advice is ignored. Thus, if it is serious I require that the tank is immediately removed from service. If it is a maintenance item, I require that the maintenance is performed and if important, require that they pay for a re-inspection (they can use another inspector). Same with car inspections.

3. "We're watching that" is the mother of all cop-outs in many cases. Yes, they are watching it fall apart and will spend the money when it fails. No, perhaps not this sailor, but he can only inspect what he sees. An inspector cannot give such comments much weight.

4. I have to assume worst-case stresses. You could put the boat on a bar just outside your home marina. Additionally, an inspector should have FAR more exposure to actual failures. When I state that the corrosion on a tank is excessive or that a weld is not suitable, it is because I have seen that failure BOTH in a code book and in a tank that has failed.

5. He is not inspecting the condition just at the time of his visit; he has to make some educated guesses about the condition over the next 5-10 years. He wants to prevent failure before the next survey, not just next month. I will fail tanks for conditions that could become serious with 20 years, depending on the element of the tank. So soft wood is clearly something that will be a problem within 5 years.

When you get your inspection license you sign a sheet of paper that makes you legally responsible for the quality of your inspection. I carry errors and omissions insurance for that reason, though I have not had a claim. If I ding you for a missing item and you provide evidence it is there, I cheerfully retract that comment (though I wish you had taken the time to join me in the field to review my findings before the report is issued--generally we don't get paid for time wasted on revisions).


Sorry if that sounds severe, but I don't see how the surveyor was in error. Every item seemed reasonable. That you did not know they did not meet code is neither here nor there; I get that all the time, I believe it is generally honest, but it still must be corrected.
(when asked how he reached the starting holds on a difficult rock climbing problem that clearly favored taller climbers - he was perhaps 5'5")

"Well, I just climb up to them."

by Joe Brown, English rock climber

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