Types of Certifications Marine Surveyors Should have

Marine Surveyor Certifications: A Layperson’s Guide

Did you know that anybody can call themselves a surveyor? It’s the certifications that they have and years of experience that matters.

Ahoy, readers! Marine surveyors play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and reliability of vessels and marine structures. To uphold high standards within the industry, the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS) has established a certification system with three primary classes of memberships. Other organizations are ACMS (Association of certified marine surveyors) and NAMS (National association of marine surveyors) plus international organizations like IIMS .

Having said that, there are other organizations and certifications out there. SAMS is just one that has been the ‘old boys’ club in the market. In this article, we will explore the different types of certifications that marine surveyors can obtain, and the qualifications required for each. Wondering how to become a marine surveyor? read on…

As we set sail into the world of marine surveyors, let’s unravel the types of certifications offered by SAMS, ACMS, and NAMS.

It is important to know the differences, so you know the skill set of the person you are dealing with. This will be your trusty map to understanding the three primary classes of memberships and the qualifications that come with them.

Association of Certified Marine Surveyors (ACMS)

The Association of Certified Marine Surveyors (ACMS) is committed to advancing the marine surveying profession through education, collaboration, and support. Founded in the 1990s, ACMS offers certifications to marine surveyors who demonstrate expertise in various areas such as yachts, commercial vessels, cargo, and more.

Through continuous email updates, ACMS provides the latest marine technical information, industry news, and professional development opportunities. The organization offers certifications to marine surveyors who demonstrate knowledge and expertise in the field, along with an Apprentice Program for newcomers.

ACMS offers two membership levels: Certified Marine Surveyor (CMS) and Marine Surveyor Member (MS). Full certification requires five years of marine surveyor service and successful completion of the comprehensive procedure.


  • Certified Marine Surveyors (CMS) have met rigorous requirements and may specialize in categories like yachts, commercial vessels, or shipping. CMS members have met comprehensive requirements and can specialize in categories such as Marine Engine Surveyors, Shipping Container Surveyors, or Food Inspectors.
  • Marine Surveyor Members (MS) are practicing professionals still progressing towards certification. Associate Members (AM) are individuals in marine trades aspiring to enter marine surveying. ACMS evaluates certification candidates based on their work history, experience, progress, and references in the marine industry. MS members are either practicing professionals working towards certification or individuals seeking a career in marine surveying who are willing to participate in the Apprentice Program

Contact ACMS at (401) 397-5040 for inquiries. Their Fundamental Canons:

  1. Avoid conflicts of interest.
  2. Prioritize the client’s benefit in their assignments.
  3. Accept only assignments they are qualified for.
  4. Conduct themselves ethically, responsibly, and lawfully, avoiding deception.

Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS)

If you are looking for a marine surveyor, the SAMS list is one place to look but this is not the only organization representing professional surveyors. Below are the membership levels for SAMS that are commonly knowns as AMS, SA, and AFF.

SAMS does not take into account professionally earned qualifications in their vetting process. Some surveyors have accreditations from ABYC (qualified advisor in Standards & Electrical and marine systems). In the past, many insurance companies would restrict surveys to only SAMS members.

1. Accredited Marine Surveyor (AMS):

Our first stop is the Accredited Marine Surveyor certification, the gold standard for seasoned surveyors. Here’s what it means for you:

  • Candidates must have a minimum of five years of surveying experience within the past ten years in the desired field of accreditation.
  • Up to three years of related marine experience may be credited towards the required five years, subject to approval by the membership committee or Board of Directors.
  • Applicants must commit to abide by the SAMS Code of Ethics, By-Laws, Standards, and official decisions.
  • A comprehensive application, resume, and a number of survey submissions are required for review by the Membership Committee.
  • Successful completion of a written exam in the chosen field of accreditation, administered by the Testing Committee.

Additionally, AMS holders must agree to participate in the SAMS program of continuing education.

2. Surveyor Associate (SA):

Next up, we have the Surveyor Associate, a stepping stone for those on the journey to becoming Accredited Marine Surveyors:

  • Applicants must be practicing marine surveyors working towards meeting the criteria for AMS certification.
  • A commitment to adhere to the SAMS Code of Ethics, By-Laws, Standards, and official decisions.
  • Submission of an application form, resume, and survey reports from each year of experience for review.
  • Agreement to participate in the SAMS program of continuing education.

3. Affiliate Member (AFF):

Our final destination is the Affiliate Member category, a port for businesses and individuals contributing to the marine industry.

The Affiliate Member category is not for practicing marine surveyors but is open to businesses or individuals providing products or services to the marine industry. Here are the key requirements:

  • Applicants must operate businesses or provide services related to the marine industry.
  • A pledge to abide by the SAMS Code of Ethics, By-Laws, Standards, and official decisions.
  • Practicing marine surveyors are not eligible for this category.

Facts about SAMS:

Did you know there are 700+ SAMS-Certified Marine Surveyors globally? 620 in the USA and 31 in Canada (with most in Ontario and BC).

Within the USA, a 28 percent majority are located in Florida (350 surveyors) followed by California (74), Maryland (72), Washington State (60), and New-york (56). All other states have less than fifty SAMS-certified surveyors.

Top 15 cities with most certified marine surveyors are:

CityCount of Certified Surveyors in City
Fort Lauderdale22+
San Diego16
St. Augustine16
St. Petersburg12
Long Beach10
Table: Number of Certified Surveyors in Top 15 cities in the USA

Extra Specializations in SAMS

Within the world of Accredited Marine Surveyors (AMS), professionals can chart their own course by specializing in specific areas of expertise. These designations add a personal touch to their journey. Let’s breeze through the key specializations:

  1. Y&SC – Yachts and Small Craft:
    • Ideal for those with five years of experience in surveying yachts and small commercial vessels. Requires a passing grade on the SAMS Yachts and Small Craft examination.
  2. H&M – Hull and Machinery:
    • Geared towards AMS members actively surveying commercial vessels exceeding 200 Gross Domestic Tons. Requires success in the SAMS Hull and Machinery examination, with considerations for specific licenses.
  3. C – Cargo:
    • Tailored for those actively involved in cargo-related surveys on merchant vessels. Success in the SAMS Cargo examination is the entry point.
  4. E – Engines (Gasoline and Diesel):
    • For AMS members with five years of experience in surveying gas or diesel marine engines. Requires a passing grade on the SAMS Gas Engine or Diesel Engine examination.
  5. FV – Fishing Vessel:
    • Tailored for those actively surveying commercial fishing vessels for at least five years. Success in the SAMS Fishing Vessel examination marks specialization.
  6. T & B – Tug & Barge:
    • For AMS members deeply engaged in surveys of tugs, barges, and tows for over five years. Success in the SAMS Tug and Barge examination indicates specialization.
  7. CW – Commercial Workboat:
    • Designed for those actively surveying inspected or uninspected commercial workboats below 1600 GT. Success in the SAMS Commercial Workboats examination is the gateway to this specialization.

Remember, these specializations offer a glimpse into the diverse experiences of AMS members. They act as guides for those seeking a SAMS surveyor, showcasing expertise without certifying individual competence. Whether sailing through yacht inspections, cargo surveys, or engine examinations, AMS members bring specialized knowledge to ensure smooth sailing in their respective domains.

National association of marine surveyors (NAMS)

With NAMS, there are three levels: Apprentice, Associate, and Certified CMS.

The National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS) offers certifications for marine surveyors at various levels:

Certified Marine Surveyor (CMS) Program:

  • Requires 5 years of experience in the marine industry, relevant degree or license, and technical skills.
  • Candidates must pass the NAMS CMS Technical Examination within 90 days.
  • Specialization examinations are available for Yacht and Small Craft, Hull & Machinery, and Cargo Surveyors.

Associate Member Program:

  • Requires 3 years of experience in the marine industry or relevant qualifications.
  • Candidates must demonstrate good communication skills and technical abilities.

Apprentice Member Program:

  • For individuals with some experience in the marine industry.
  • Candidates must demonstrate basic communication skills and appropriate certifications.

Chapman School Of Seamanship (YSCS)

Chapman.org offers the YACHT & SMALL CRAFT SURVEYING (YSCS) course with exam. The Chapman School of Seamanship’s Yacht & Small Craft Surveying (YSCS) course, known as “The Industry Standard,” equips students to enter the marine surveying field confidently. The program covers vessel appraisals for condition and value, assisting in purchase or sale transactions and insurance assessments.

Educational Objectives:

  1. Prepare individuals for yacht and small craft surveying careers.
  2. Provide technical knowledge and promote ethical and professional integrity.
  3. Offer in-depth understanding of boat systems and values to insurance adjusters, underwriters, and other industry professionals.

The course emphasizes comprehensive understanding of hull design, construction, propulsion, navigation, communication, and electrical systems. Instruction includes classroom lectures, onboard demonstrations, practice surveys, and report preparation, ensuring students can accurately evaluate and communicate vessel conditions. The curriculum aims to balance technical expertise with strong business ethics.

The Institute of Marine Surveyors (IIMS)

The International Institute of Marine Surveying (IIMS), established in 1991, is a prestigious, independent organization dedicated to promoting the professionalism, recognition, and training of marine surveyors globally. With over 1,000 members across 100 countries, IIMS is the largest professional body for the marine surveying profession.

It represents its industry to various governmental and non-governmental organizations, including the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and P&I Clubs, advocating for standards and accountability. IIMS offers a range of services and benefits to its members and the broader maritime community. They even have books on surveying.

The Institute of Marine Surveyors (IIMS) offers various membership categories:

  1. Full Membership:
    • Requires a minimum of 5 years of full-time practice as a marine surveyor or consultant.
    • Candidates must demonstrate appropriate qualifications or experience.
  2. Associate Membership:
    • For individuals practicing marine surveying or consultancy for at least 3 years but not meeting Full Membership criteria.
    • Full Members reducing their involvement in the Institute are also eligible.
  3. Technician Membership:
    • Individuals with recognized qualifications and at least 3 years of practical experience in a marine-related field.
  4. Affiliate Membership:
    • For less experienced surveyors, graduates, or those in early stages of a marine surveying career.
    • Requires continuous training and gaining experience before applying for higher membership levels.
  5. Others include: Supporting Membership, Corporate Membership, Corporate Supporting Membership, Retired Membership.

Other Certifications and boat surveyor schools

Conclusion regarding boat surveyor certifications:

In summary, the different certification societies and systems offer distinct classes to accommodate various levels of experience and involvement in the marine industry. Whether aspiring to become an Accredited Marine Surveyor, working towards meeting the criteria, or providing valuable services to the industry, certifications ensure a commitment to high standards and continued education within the field of marine surveying.

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