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July 19, 2022 – Published in Design & Decor Spring-Summer 2022 issue

Stay Safe Surveys – The essential benefits of marine surveying with James Cachia Debono

Established in October 2018, Stay Safe Surveys is the official enterprise for professional marine surveyor, James Cachia Debono. The self-employed assessor branched out on his own venture, conducting yacht/boat inspections for insurance and purchasing purposes. 

As a child, James always enjoyed water sports, and through the years, he also worked extensively on boats. He was, therefore, naturally inclined towards a curriculum of maritime studies, as well as successfully obtaining a captain’s licence. After his son was born – when James himself was quite young – he decided to opt for a shore-based job to be closer to his family.

In Malta, marine-related qualifications may be obtained from the University of Malta, but only through first completing a course in Engineering, followed by the Naval Architectural course. This, however, is more focused on the construction and design of marine vessels. James opted to carry out more specialised studies in the UK. His qualifications include a diploma in Marine Surveying (DipMS) and a Masters in Marine Operations Management (MSc MOM), specialising in marine surveying. 

So, what exactly does marine surveying involve?

“My job is to inspect all areas of the boat or yacht,” James explained. “There are different categories to cover. I make sure all systems are working as they should be and identify those which are not up to conformity. I confirm that all life-saving and fire-fighting equipment is compliant with local law. I check the interfaith of the hull structure and monitor for cracks, osmosis, delaminating of the fibreglass, which is the most common type of material for boats in Malta. I also examine any repairs which have been carried out and which may affect the structural integrity or sea worthiness of the sea craft.”

“I carry out marine surveys for various reasons. The most common is the insurance renewal survey. I also offer pre-purchase surveys for new buyers and inspections for new registrations for Transport Malta. Surveys on fishing boats are also carried out to ensure they are compliant with the local fishing authorities and ensure the vessels are seaworthy. Furthermore, I perform damage and hull moisture inspections, as well as commercial coding for boat owners who wish to commence commercial operations with passengers onboard.”

Marine surveys are crucial to ensure safety at sea.

When James conducts surveys for insurance companies, his work entails safety and compliance inspections, while ensuring there is no visible wear and tear. He also ascertains that the boat is being insured for its current market value, which includes all accessories. 

When it comes to safety, he performs several tests which are especially useful for someone purchasing a boat but is not knowledgeable about them. James takes the boat out to sea to test the engine and navigation systems. He also performs out of water surveys to check the hull integrity, sea cocks, thru-hull fittings, the cathodic protection systems, etc. The internal inspection of the sea craft covers all the systems onboard, including the engines, running gear, air-conditioning, toilets, electrical systems, battery installations, as well as investigations for any leaks, rust, and corrosion. 

James has some sound advice to give to boat owners.

“After a survey is completed, some boat owners complain about the list of jobs they are asked to carry out to make their boat fully seaworthy,” James stated. “It is important that this list is given the necessary commitment, no matter the cost. Additionally, if they install new accessories in the winter season when the boat is not being used, they are required to request a new survey if they wish to increase the value of the boat for insurance purposes.”

James also cited the recent spate of unexplained encounters between orcas and boats around Gibraltar, Spain, and Portugal. Although some vessels had visible wreckage from these incidents, other boats may incur less noticeable damage from run-ins with any sea creatures. A survey prior to and after a long voyage away will, therefore, locate any such damage and prevent it from deteriorating further.

James offers a word of caution for anyone looking to buy a boat.

“Make sure you appoint a professional mechanic and surveyor 

to inspect any vessel you are interested in. And once you purchase it, make sure to keep its maintenance up to date and that all fire and safety equipment does not reach its expiration date.”

It is tempting to go cheap and avoid the expense of these inspections. But, apart from the risk of incurring fines, neglecting your boat could lead to a significant mishap. Ultimately, safety at sea is paramount. 

A professional marine survey will confirm your boat is seaworthy and locate any problems you may not be aware of. This will put your mind at rest and ensure you can enjoy your boat safely wherever you go. 

For more information contact James Cachia Debono on +356 9980 8983 or send an email at

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