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Applying Infrared Imaging Techniques to Marine Surveying

Date: March 01, 2006

John (Jack) N. Allinson, II BS

SAMS® Accredited Marine Surveyor AMS®, Level 1 Certified Infrared Thermographer

J.N. Allinson Associates, Inc.

222 University Blvd. North #2, Jacksonville, FL 32211



Marine surveyors are to the marine industry as building and home inspectors are to the commercial and residential real estate industry. A marine surveyor’s opinions are relied upon to document the condition and value of the vessels (boats, ships) they inspect. A marine surveyor examining a vessel relies heavily upon experience and what can be seen, heard, and felt. Traditionally, visual anomalies seen with the unaided eye often are the sole basis for further testing. Infrared images are an effective tool in extending a marine surveyor’s ability to detect anomalies. This paper will review common deficiencies found in vessels and show how infrared imaging has become an effective tool in documenting the problems found during inspections.


Common to all marine surveys are deliverables that provide a:

  • Detailed and accurate description of the vessel
  • “Condition and Value” of a vessel
  • List of findings and recommendations

Typically, the “Condition” of a vessel is based upon its structural integrity and how the onboard systems function. Inherent in the “Condition” are generally accepted terms that reflect whether a boat is ready for sale or whether it requires additional work. Similar to the real estate industry, the “Value” of a vessel is based upon recent sales comparables and income earning potential of the vessel.

When vessels are inspected, they are looked at with respect to the mandatory standards promulgated by the United States Coast Guard (USCG), under the authority of Title 46 United States Code (USC); Title 33 and Title 46, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), and the voluntary standards and recommended practices developed by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Two business segments are typically served:

  • Commercial – Tugboats, Passenger Vessels, Shipping, and Fisheries
  • Recreational – Yachts and Small Craft

Within each business segment, types of inspections can be broken down into:

  • Prepurchase – requested by buyer when purchasing a new or used vessel
  • Seller – requested to help prepare for the sale of a vessel
  • Insurance – required by an underwriter(s) to determine if vessel is an acceptable risk
  • Appraisal – required by a lending institution, or legally for estate settlements and donations
  • Damage – required to settle an insurance claim or for legal action

Examples of Infrared Applications


Direct Current (DC) systems

Electrical panel, batteries, and bundled wires
Alternating Current (AC) systems

Boat Fires at Dockside


Motors, both electric and internal combustion

Vessel Construction and Materials

Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) Hulls Moisture Accumulation, Osmotic Blisters and Delamination

Wooden Boat Hulls

Open Seams between Wooden Planks
Moisture Accumulation
Wood Rot
Mechanical Fasteners


Foam and Wood Coring Materials
Moisture Accumulation

Other materials that lend themselves to IR imaging

Carbon fiber used to construct sailboat masts, booms, arches, and hulls

Shows fractures from point source loading

Metal, Aluminum and Steel

Surface leaks on fuel, holding, or water tanks
Moisture accumulation in select areas in the hull interior

Concrete (ferro cement)

Identify fractures and cracks
Moisture accumulation
Disbonding between cement and wire reinforcement
Locate metal reinforcement


Infrared imaging is clearly a valuable tool for a Marine Surveyor. Like other investigative tools, it should not be used as the “sole source” for confirming a problem. A surveyor’s experience and knowledge of how a boat’s systems function, the construction methods used, and use of other supporting investigative tools are essential to the accurate interpretation of what the infrared images show.


72 COLREGS – International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea and/or the Navigation Rules: International – Inland – Obtain the Navigation Rules from the Superintendent of Documents, United States Government Information, POB 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954

ABYC – American Boat & Yacht Council, July 2005, ”Standards for and Technical Information Reports for Small Craft”, 3069 Solomon’s Island Road, Edgewater, MD 21037-1416

Allinson, II, John (Jack) N.; “Infrared Thermography in Marine Surveying”, Technical Information Exchange for Marine Professionals, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 4 & 12

Allinson, II, John (Jack) N., J.N. Allinson Associates, Inc.; “Applying Infrared Imaging Techniques to Marine Surveying” InfraMation 2003 Proceedings, September 2003, Volume 4, pp. 1-6

Allinson, II, John (Jack) N., J.N. Allinson Associates, Inc., “Applying Infrared Imaging Techniques to Marine Surveying…continued”, InfraMation 2004 Proceedings, October 2004 Volume 5, pp. 83-90

Allinson, II, John (Jack) N., Allinson Infrared Inspection Services (AIRIS), Inc., “Infrared Imaging and the Detection of Great White Sharks and Cape Fur Seals”, InfraMation 2004 Proceedings, October 2004, Volume 5, pp. 83-90

CFR – Code of Federal Regulations and other government publications. Obtain from the Superintendent of Documents, United States Government Information, POB 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954

NFPA – National Fire Protection Association, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02269

USCG – United States Coast Guard, USCG Headquarters, Washington, DC, 25093

Various IR papers


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