The Napoleonic code established the corps of commissaires d’avarie (damage commissioners, surveyors).
They were the first marine surveyors in known history and were in reality public administrators in charge of the coordination and the planning of sailing boats maintenance after they were damaged at sea or during a military campaign.
Before World War 2 the profession of marine surveyor did not really exist as such. Marine surveyors were then marine engineers for what was related to commerce and naval architects for what was related to leisure boating but also retired deck officers or mechanics.
In the 1950s insurance companies started publishing lists of experts which they assigned according to strictly economic criteria. In the 1960s and 70s the profession changed and diversified.
Today surveyors are technicians who show great knowledge of all marine technologies they acquired thanks to technical education and experience. All the necessary skills required for this activity may be acquired by self-teaching or through engineering education or marine colleges.
About 100 marine surveyors are registered in France in the French yachting directory (Annuaire du nautisme) according to the FIEM (Fédération internationale des experts et conseils maritimes – International Marine Accredited Surveyors Association) which was created in 1983.
Marine surveyors can work for any client in the maritime world: professionals, insurers, institutions, etc.
They may, when working with insurers, advise conservation measures, identify damaged properties, determine the origin of damages, file a liability claim, describe damages, calculate their cost, evaluate wear rates and the coming obsolescence of a ship, etc.
On an administrative level, surveyors may work with Customs authorities to determine, for instance, the value of a ship which is being imported or work with tax services to determine the value of a ship which is included in inherited assets or also work with civil or trade courts for legal expertise.
When working with professionals they may be hired by resellers to inspect ships for sale in order to assess their state, determine the different repairs to perform or by shipyards to monitor works, take note of failures, etc.
They may also come to perform, for cross-examination, damage checks on ships, goods, port equipment, etc.
Marine surveyors may perform their job within the framework of a liberal profession or as employees but may also work for ship classification companies. Marine surveyors, like any other expert, are technicians but are not legally trained.
Source: multiple Internet sources, specialized literature, testimonials (Pratic-Export, Pôle-emploi cards, Wikipedia, Onisep, CNRTL, Umep à la Page…)