When we need something done in business, we all need friends. Marine businesses are no exception to this rule. As the new year approaches, a reminder that those pesky inspectors and regulatory agents can be friends rather than adversaries — if you know how to treat them.
• Coast Guard inspectors. If you have an inspected vessel, you’ll be boarded for annual inspections, man overboard drills, etc. I remember a vessel owner captain who decided at a Coast Guard meeting that he knew more about vessels than “that bunch of young kids” at the Coast Guard. He challenged the commander to name a few items on his vessel. The commander got all the answers correct. About a week later, three inspectors ran the captain and the vessel through the wringer. Had he been friendly with his usual inspector, cooperated with him and corrected any 835s immediately, the vessel owner would have not been subjected to the scrutiny he brought upon himself.
• OSHA. These folks usually have a laundry list of things to check when inspecting your yard. If you are cooperative and give them the time they need they will generally work with you. If you decide they’re there to get you, you’ll lose. Since they have the power of the law, make friends with them immediately. Ask for a courtesy inspection and try to learn from them. If you do that you’ll be placed on a “do not inspect list.”
• Surveyors. They can make your life miserable. Sit down with the surveyor and get some parameters so you can expect what they’re looking for. If it’s a value survey, let them know what value you think should be placed on your vessel. If it’s a condition survey, always accompany the surveyor during the entire inspection so you can point out how everything works. If they can’t figure it out by themselves, they’ll mark it down as not functioning, which is not a good thing to see in a surveyor’s report. Plus, at that point, it’s tough to get the condition straightened out without another report.
• Your insurance agent. Most agents don’t really take the time to learn what your vessel is like or what you do on a daily basis. Invite them on board your vessel so they can see what they intend to insure. After all, they’re the eyes and ears of the insurance company and should learn as much as they can about your vessel.
Business friends are great to have and can make your life much easier.