(Ranger Hope © 2008, contains edits of material courtesy of A.N.T.A. publications)

The vessel designer has to ensure that under normal use water will not enter the hull in sufficient quantities to sink it. The shipbuilder ensures that is of sound construction to meet these requirements. This is verified at the initial survey carried out by an Authority.

It is the Master's responsibility to ensure that the vessel’s watertight and weathertight integrity is maintained throughout it’s period of service. This is ensured by periodic surveys carried out by the Authorities. In general terms, the survey requirements require the vessel to be watertight below the freeboard deck and weathertight above the freeboard deck. This means that the shell plating must be intact and the closures to all openings leading to the hull should be in efficient working order. No alterations should be done to any structure that would adversely affect the watertight integrity of the hull without the approval of the appropriate survey authority.

It is essential that you are thoroughly familiar with the locations and closing mechanisms of all openings on your vessel through which water may enter the hull. This way you will not neglect to maintain, test and check the efficiency of any of the closing arrangements.


Maintenance Items

• Check that all access openings at ends of enclosed structures are in good condition. All door clips, clamps, and hinges should be free and well greased. All gaskets and watertight seals should be crack free. Ensure that the doors open from both sides.

• Check all cargo hatches and access to holds for weather tightness.

• Seals should never be painted.

• Regularly inspect all machinery space openings on exposed decks.

• Check that any manholes and flush scuttles are capable of being made water-tight.

• Check that all ventilator openings are provided with efficient weathertight closing appliances and repair any defects.

• All air pipes of diameter exceeding 30mm bore, must be provided with permanently attached satisfactory means for closing the openings.

• Ensure that the non-return valves on overboard discharges are operating in a satisfactory manner.

• Check that all freeing ports are in a satisfactory condition, e.g. shutters are not jammed, hinges are free and that pins are of non-corroding material. Check that any securing appliances, if fitted, work correctly.


Watertight checks and tests

Pipe flanges through bulkheads.


Watertight door seals, hinges and dogs.


Side doors and seals.

Side door alarm fittings.

Deck hatches, scuttles and seals.

Ventilator seals.



You can test the efficiency of closures by means of a simple “water hosing test” (showing it doesnt leak) or by a “chalk test” (showing continuous transfer to both meeting surfaces). 


Survey items

Survey a thorough examination performed by, or in the presence of a surveyor or an authorised person or society.

Inspection a visual inspection performed by an approved person.

The Certificate of Survey is issued on completion of an Initial Survey. The surveyor submits a report, detailing the condition of the hull, machinery and equipment including scantling sizes as defined in the aproved plans. He/she makes a written declaration of such condition.

Initial Survey

The main purpose of this survey is to ensure that the vessel will be able to perform the tasks for which it is intended.

All aspects of the vessel’s construction are examined to ensure that it meets the requirements of the National Standards for Commercial Vessels from AMSA or other regulatory authority. After the construction is complete, the Authority surveys the vessel once more and if satisfied, issues the operator with a "Certificate of Operation" and the vessel with a “Certificate of Survey”.

The Certificate of Survey or its evidence (plasticised document or metal plate) should be displayed:

• near the steering position, except on passenger vessels, where the evidence should be displayed in such a position that it is readily visible to passengers, or if the Authority requires,

•  in a position on board that it shall be visible from outside the vessel.

Periodic Surveys And Inspections

All vessels must under go ‘Periodic Surveys and Inspections’ to satisfy the Authority that the vessel continues to comply with all its laws and regulations.

A typical survey schedule for vessels of less than 35 metres in length is given in National Standards for Commercial Vessels (AMSA):


Typical Annual Surveys

• Equipment.

• Running trial of each main engine and associated gearbox.

• Operational test of bilge pumps, bilge alarms and bilge valves

• Operation test of all valves in the fire main system.

• Operational test of all sea injection and overboard discharge valves and cocks.

• Operational test of main and emergency means of steering.

• Running trial of all machinery essential to the safe operation of the vessel.

• Inspection of all pipe arrangements.

• General examination of machinery installation and electrical installation.

• All safety and relief valves associated with the safe operation of the vessel to be set at the required working pressure.

• Pressure vessels, and associated mountings used for the generation of steam under pressure or the heating of water to a temperature exceeding 99 degrees Celsius

• Inspection of the liquefied petroleum gas installation.

• Inspection of cargo handling, fishing and trawling gear.

• Inspection of escapes from engine room and accommodation spaces.

• Inspection of personnel protection arrangements in machinery spaces.

• Inspection of casings, superstructures, skylights, hatchways, companionways, bulwarks and guard rails, ventilators and air pipes, together with all closing devices.

•  Inspection of ground tackle (anchors and chains).

• Out of water annual inspections are usually restricted to timber vessels, metal and GRP usually two years.


Two Yearly Surveys

• Hull externally and internally except in way of tanks forming part of the structure.

• Sea injection and overboard discharge valves and cocks.

• Inspection of propellers, rudders and under water fittings.

•  Pressure vessel and associate mountings of an air pressure/salt water system having a working pressure of more than 275 kPa.


Four Yearly Surveys

• Each screw and tube shaft.

• Anchors and cables to range.

• Chain locker internally.

• Tanks forming part of the hull, other than oil tanks, internally.

• Void spaces internally.

• Compressed air pressure vessels having a working pressure of more than 275 kPa and associated mountings.

• Pressure vessel and associated mountings of an air pressure/fresh water system having a working pressure of more than 275 kPa.

• Cargo handling, Fishing and trawling gear.

•  Insulation test of all electrical installations above 32V A.C. or D.C.


Eight Yearly Surveys

• Each rudder stock and rudder stock bearing.

• Steering gear.

• Hull in way of removable ballast.

•  Selected sections of internal structure in way of refrigerated space.


Twelve Yearly Surveys

•  Fuel oil tanks internally


Planned Maintenance

The Master is responsible for the seaworthiness of the vessel and must ensure that all national and international requirements regarding safety and pollution prevention are being complied with. Effective planning is required to ensure that the vessel, its machinery systems and its services are functioning correctly and being properly maintained, including dry-docking to maintain hull smoothness.

Planned maintenance is primarily concerned with reducing breakdowns and the associated costs. Planned maintenance is of two kinds:

Preventative maintenance is aimed at preventing failures or discovering a failure at an early stage.

Corrective maintenance is aimed at repairing failures that were expected, but were not prevented because they were not critical for safety or economy.

Advantages Of Planned Maintenance

• Fewer breakdowns and repairs.

• Equipment operates efficiently at all times.

• Fewer hazards to the crew when working with well maintained equipment.

• Vessel complies with survey requirements at all times.

•  No areas of the vessel or items of equipment are overlooked or neglected.

Elements Of A Planned Maintenance Program

You can develop a basic maintenance program for your vessel by taking the following steps:

Step 1 Determine what items need to be maintained.

Step 2 Determine the type of maintenance tasks required on each item.

Step 3 Determine the frequency of carrying out particular maintenance jobs.

Step 4 Prepare a maintenance schedule.

Step 5 Develop operational and recording procedures.

You will need to consider the following issues in the planning process

• Is an item worth maintaining? What would be the real cost of failure to maintain that item?

• Equipment manufacturers instructions.

• Statutory survey requirements.

• Classification society requirements.

• Maximum length of survey cycle.

• Magnitude of maintenance task.

• Maintenance/inspection that can only be carried out when the vessel is out of water.

• Resources required.

• Recording.

• Length of voyages, routes and trades the vessel is involved in.

•  Spare parts replacement.


The plan must be adaptable to various weather conditions and must be flexible enough to accommodate changes in vessel’s trade.

It is convenient to draw up a maintenance schedule by breaking down the plan into various ‘time phases’. Two suggested categories are:

(a) Short-term maintenance.

(b)  Long-term maintenance.

Short-term maintenance may include weekly, fortnightly or monthly inspections and greasing routines. Long term maintenance will involve major overhauls and surveys. Remember too that some operational maintenance tasks will only be carried out as and when necessary.

The actual operation and documentation of the plan will vary from vessel to vessel. Many vessels use a card index system or computer program for this purpose. Usually, a job sheet is prepared for each job. The job sheet contains a description of the work and a list of relevant spare parts and references to drawings and instruction manuals. On completion of the job, relevant details are entered in the job sheet.

Preparation and painting must be undertaken according to the manufacturers instructions and Safety Data Sheets, with the use of appopriate PPE. Beware of working in or near a confined space.