A day in the life of ..............

A day in the life of ……….   John Clabburn: Qualified Marine Surveyor & Expert Witness


Reprinted from Yacht Brokers Designers & Surveyors Association (YBDSA) December 2014 Newsletter

Q:      First of all, please tell us about your company and your current role 

European Marine Services Ltd (inc European Marine Surveys) was incorporated in 2006, previously trading as John E Clabburn & Associates Marine Surveyors.

We are qualified marine architects & surveyors and undertake marine surveys – all types including the popular pre-purchase survey – covering GRP, wood & steel. Other services include Expert Witness CPR 35 compliant / Expert Determination & ADR Dispute Resolution & Mediation plus general consultancy.

In support of European clients we have in house multi-lingual services to include French, Spanish, Italian & Greek, however all reports are in English

European Marine Services is a small marine business based in Norwich ideally situated in the heart of the Norfolk Broads with quick access to the East Coast. Working with self-employed Associates undertaking leisure boat surveys (< 150’) throughout the UK and more and more in Europe. We no longer undertake design work but having a background in marine architecture / design is a very big bonus and of significant advantage for marine surveying and expert witness / dispute work

Having a general interest in marine law plus some legal training several years ago and more recently with The Academy of Experts based at Grays Inn London, I undertake all our Expert Witness and Dispute Resolution work, being an expanding side of the business 

Q:     What does your typical day entail ?

Like all of us the day starts dealing with emails and catching up with general correspondence plus completing reports (time consuming) which job I find less exciting than being out meeting clients, discussing their problems and issues and offering advice.

We phone boatyards, brokers and clients to finalise survey arrangements and to make sure nothing falls between the cracks. For example this week we have arranged surveys in Palma and La Rochelle, fortunately for me Louis Bodmer (surveyor) a colleague who speaks both languages fluently

Looking for a moment at Expert Witness and Dispute Resolution enquiries, these are received either from the client direct or from their legal representative. I am appointed to act in the capacity of a SJE Single Joint expert where I act on behalf of both parties or as a PAE Party Appointed Expert representing a single party. In both instances my duty is to the court

This Expert Witness / Dispute side of the business takes much more time with most instructions taking on average of between six and twelve months to finalise. At any moment in time we have probably two or three instructions on going

Most enquiries being received through our website (www.europeanmarinesurveys.com) and from client and broker recommendation

P1150500    P1150526

Insurance Survey of Wood Ketch in France

Q:     How did you get started in your career ?

Back in the 1960s I started work as a boatbuilding apprentice in Woodbridge Suffolk building wood sailing ketches. My first job being steaming planks to shape standing in the snow beside a large wood fired steamer, followed by ‘cutting out’ a rabbit line in a vessels 50’ hog with a carpenter’s adze.

After several years (and other boat yards) I completed my five year apprenticeship as a boat builder and ended up at Vosper Thornycroft, Shipyard Portsmouth as a Student Apprentice Naval Architect and undergoing training in every department, building naval warships with sponsorship for University.

Fast forward and I have now worked in the marine industry for well over forty years. I have held senior management positions in high unit value production and marine engineering management for fourteen years. International sales and marketing for nine years, covering leisure, commercial, high speed and paramilitary craft of all types up to approximately 45m. I was a senior marine manager with MAN B&W Ltd with responsibility for international sales of high speed marine diesel engine and propulsion systems.

In 2006 I was fortunate enough to be proposed for membership of The Academy of Experts by a previous Academy Chairman and well known Arbitrator.

To become – Expert Witness CPR Part 35 compliant (Civil Procedure Rules) I have undertaken the following Expert Witness training modules

Legal Framework        Law & Procedure        Procedure Rules

Role & Responsibilities of the Expert. Expert Determination         The Experts Report

In 2007 I joined the Register of Qualified Mediators / Faculty of Mediation & ADR

# 3 Europa 42  Project Development & Management

Q:   What do you enjoy most about your work ?

I get the biggest thrill and sense of satisfaction when clients whom we represent are successful in their claim or dispute.

To give some examples as to the interesting scope and variety of Expert Witness / Dispute Instructions undertaken

Expert Witness ……………………..

Evidence in Coroners Court   Accidental death

Evidence in Court                   HMRC Vat Disputes

Evidence in Court                   Navigation & Speeding

Construction Disputes in UK, Spain, Croatia & France

Valuations for Probate Purposes and Matrimonial Disputes

Insurance Claims / Loss Adjuster

Expert Determination              Valuation of small ferries

Personal Injury Claims

Damage Inspections & Disputes

Expert Evidence on behalf of marine surveyors 

Q:   What advice would you offer to someone considering your career path ?

Think long and hard and get the right training as there are no shortcuts to becoming a marine surveyor and it takes much longer than you think to build up a successful business. With current consumer legislation clients know their rights and are very quick to apportion blame when things go wrong (compensation culture) We know all too well as we have worked with both sides and have equally represented surveyors with a problem.

You cannot become an Expert Witness until you first become an ‘Expert’

A Definition of an Expert: ” An honest trustworthy authority being someone who’s already made most of the mistakes in that area “. 

Cynara   29m Schooner Insurance Survey in Japan

Q:   What was your first job ?

Working as a boatbuilding apprentice for Whistocks Boatyard in Woodbridge Suffolk. This was hard work building large wooden ketches by hand, steaming planks in the open air and working with hand tools such as adze. Being in the days when boatsheds were open to all weathers with minimal heating and moving heavy boats around on greasy ways.

Q:   What is your favourite motto or saying ?

The easiest way to make money is to stop losing it

Q:   The Way Forward

The YBDSA is a great authority for the industry and continues to maintain high standards

However, we come across young surveyors (recently qualified) who have paid very high tuition fees to a training college and then told to go out and earn a living, yet their practical knowledge (which takes many industry years) is regretfully non-existent, consequently life as a successful surveyor is a struggle.

If marine industry apprenticeships were to come back (most unlikely) this would be an excellent foundation to a subsequent career as a marine surveyor

John E. Clabburn, MIIMS, C.Eng, Dipl.Na, AFA, QDR

Chartered Engineer & Marine Surveyor

# 7 Logo Round    European Marine Services Ltd
                +44 (0) 1603 327 123