For the modelling and determination of the Earth’s external gravity potential as well as its second-order radial derivatives in the space near sea surface, the surface layer integral method was discussed in the paper. The reasons for the applicability of the method over sea surface were discussed. From the original integral formula of disturbing potential based on the surface layer method, the expression of the radial component of the gravity gradient tensor was derived. Furthermore, an identity relation was introduced to modify the formula in order to reduce the singularity problem. Numerical experiments carried out over the marine area of China show that, the modi-fied surface layer integral method effectively improves the accuracy and reliability of the calculation of the second-order radial gradient component of the disturbing potential near sea surface.