With one-off new builds currently in the doldrums due to the current economic climate, and a steady stream of hitherto copper bottom manufacturers getting into financial difficulties, one consequence has been that the remaining concerned would be purchasers, ever more mindful of the financial risks of commissioning a new build, even if stock craft, have been seeking expert legal advice with a view to creating bespoke contracts which protect their interests by minimising their financial exposure.
That in turn has led to the increasing tendency of incorporating, within the build contract, the requirement for the Purchaser to be represented by an expert Surveyor, both in relation to the close monitoring of the physical aspects of the build, but also the practical policing and enforcement of elements of the contract itself.
The result is that Surveyors are now evermore not only obliged to ensure that the vessel is built in accordance with the agreed contractual specifications and within the agreed timelines, but also, less obviously perhaps, that the Purchaser’s financial exposure is minimised (so far as possible) throughout the construction process, by undertaking other more unusual steps.
Successful Marine Surveyors have increasingly adapted their services to reflect this changing role, and so kept themselves busy where others perhaps have missed out.
Having been involved in a number of new builds in recent months, it would be worthwhile setting out a few examples of the sort of areas where competent Surveyors are offering enhanced services to their clients, whilst remaining within their comfort zone in terms of professional competence, and equally importantly, the realms of the cover afforded by their Professional Indemnity Insurers.
A typical purchaser, mindful of the economic climate and the trading conditions of most small Yards, will have certain key concerns. The most obvious is that he (or she) will not want to part with their money until they have a boat (or part of a boat) in return.
Whilst that contract will invariably tend to use the BMF form, typically, the deposit was historically larger than actually necessary, reflecting pressure for “build slots”. Those days are long gone, and risk is now minimised by the contract providing for a small initial deposit payment upon exchange, followed by a series of further instalment or stage payments, culminating in a final payment at or even shortly after delivery and acceptance of the vessel.
Tim is a Director and Head of the Marine department specialising in marine and admiralty law.
He specialises in all aspects of the law relating to pleasure vessels and is recognised as one of the foremost experts in the field, addressing a vast range of issues from contractual to technical, via the statutory and occasionally bizarre.
Practising internationally, Tim represents owners, insurers, boatyards and high profile marine organisations, as well as those buying or selling their boats.
After working for brief periods as a boat builder, yacht chandler and professional sailor, he went on to study Admiralty Law at the University of Wales in Cardiff where he obtained his law degree. He is a member of the Royal Yachting Association and the British Marine Federation.
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