Mike Schwarz, Chief Executive Officer of the International Institute of Marine Surveying (IIMS), an independent, non-political organisation promoting the professionalism, recognition and training of marine surveyors worldwide. Mike has been leading the IIMS now for just over two years and talks to Gibraltar Shipping about his long-term plans, what his role entails and the functions of this international body.
How has your experience helped you in your role as CEO of the IIMS?
I joined IIMS in January 2014 and I think my appointment took some by surprise as my background is neither technical nor marine. Perhaps that made me the maverick candidate? Be that as it may. In my opinion, it was clear that what IIMS needed was a business manager and not a marine surveyor heading up the organisation, someone who could look afresh at the organisation and find ways to re-engage with the membership and develop new initiatives. Clearly those who appointed me agreed!
My career spans 35 years in business. Over that time I have managed small and large enterprises and, as a ‘commercial animal’, my core skills lie in sales, marketing, web and general management in media, publishing, membership organisations and event management companies. I have brought basic, good management skills into the business and we are making good progress.
What are the key values of the IIMS?
First and foremost we are here to support our marine surveyor members worldwide. We aim to share best practice with them and to cascade relevant information and regulation changes to our members by various mediums, including email, web, video and social media.
We also aim to uphold the role and significance of professional marine surveyors, both small craft and commercial ship, within the maritime world.
What are your main objectives for 2016?
There are a number, but in no order of importance these are the key ones:
The IIMS is composed of over a 1,000 members across 90 countries. How do members benefit from the Institute?
Recognition and the ability to show letters after their name as members of a professional body. Use of the Institute’s logo on websites and letterheading. Each surveyor featured on the fully searchable online database via the website. The opportunity to engage in training and Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
An annual membership identity card. Quarterly publication – the Report Magazine, which has developed hugely and is now well read. Monthly news bulletin. Membership travel scheme. An inexpensive web design service.
Networking opportunities at conferences, seminars and other events. Easy access to original YouTube video content, plus LinkedIn and Twitter new feeds. To start the process of looking at how to develop the next generation of marine surveyors.
How important is training and development to those in the industry and what role does IIMS play to support personal development plans?
The buzz words last year wherever I went in the world were “surveyor standards and competency”. Technologies are changing in the industry as never before and at a fast rate. Surveyors need to be abreast of these changes if they wish to remain relevant.
IIMS insists that all members following a process of CPD as most similar professions do these days. CPD is the way they can develop and ensure their skills remain current.
For more than 15 years IIMS has provided distance learning, professional qualifications for surveyors in small craft and commercial ship marine surveying. The course material is extensive, current and of the highest quality.
We also run practical, low cost training days quite regularly both in the UK and further afield, particularly for small craft and MCA coding member surveyors. Our regional overseas branches also run conferences on an annual, or bi-annual basis.
What advice would you provide to a client seeking the services of a Marine Surveyor?
Marine surveying is an unusual profession in so far as there are few barriers to entry. There really is no such thing as a fully qualified surveyor. Most have acquired their knowledge through time served at sea and then backed up with training and education.
For someone seeking a surveyor word of mouth is a great way. Find someone who can recommend a surveyor. I would say only choose a surveyor who is a member of a professional body, although that does not necessarily guarantee competency of course. But to be absolutely sure ask a surveyor for a couple of references so you can make your own enquiries. A good surveyor will be happy to do that.
The Institute starts its twenty-fifth year of operation and prepares to celebrate its Silver Jubilee this year. What does this mean to the IIMS?
2016 is a big year for IIMS, the year we finally come of age as we start to celebrate our Silver Jubilee. The high point of the year will be a very special two day conference and awards ceremony in London in late summer. I am encouraging our regional branches, of which there are seven, to get involved by arranging local dinners and events to mark the occasion too.
As part of the celebrations, I have been doing some research into the very first gathering of surveyors back in 1991 on-board HMS Wellington. Sadly some have passed away and others now too old and frail. But I have reconnected with the first President, William MacDonald (Capt. Bill to his friends). He lost touch with IIMS a few years ago and was surprised to hear from me. We became instant friends! Very much one of the ‘founding fathers’ and a visionary, he told me about the struggle he and others faced from inside the industry in the early days. He also told me he was astonished to see how the Institute has flourished.
Your memorable shipping experience?
A memorable experience but not for the right reasons! So that I could better understand the role of a marine surveyor, I joined an experienced practitioner at Southampton Docks to oversee him at work. The job? Simple. To load 7 Sunseeker Yachts for onward transportation to the Med. I found the whole experience truly absorbing from the loading of one vessel off a low loader lorry to lifting one craft from the sea itself. But what made it memorable -for the wrong reasons- was watching the damaging of an expensive yacht as it swung uncontrollably into a steel bulkhead! It was at that point that the surveyor went into action, recording what he had seen and at that moment I totally understood the role and importance of the surveyor.
Your favourite ship?
I actually found this question the hardest to answer! My head is often turned by the many stunning superyachts of course and the growing range of explorer superyachts that are fast emerging. They are small ships in their own right. I am also fascinated by some of the strange and wonderful looking off-shore support vessels which sometimes defy logic in their design. However, each time I see the Queen Mary 2 emerging into The Solent from Southampton Docks as she sails serenely by, I am in awe and that is my favourite ship.
Editor, Marine Strategy
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