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Old 05-11-2010, 06:08 AM   #1
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City: Rochester, NY
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salvage laws

where can I find information on salvage laws? ive googled it but come up with very little. wondering about lifting a sunken boat, I know some about it, such as contacting the sheriffs office and claiming salvage but there are alot of legistics I dont know. also derelict vessels, if a boat is floating down the river unmaned what are the laws? Ive heared that if you tie to it you are intitled to 25% of the value? I just want to learn more about this subject and dont know where to start so any help would be great. thanks
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Old 05-11-2010, 10:09 AM   #2
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RE: salvage laws

Pretty complicated issue. There is high salvage and low salvage. High is where there is risk of life and limb to the salvor. low is like you said about a boat floating down a river.
There is also the issue of a tow vs a salvage. Then there is the degree of risk and the degree of peril. There are many contributing factors Compensation is rarely more than 50%. It all gets decided in federal court.
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Old 05-11-2010, 02:35 PM   #3
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RE: salvage laws

As the captain of a ocean going salvage tug (151') , I have a limited working knowledge of
some of the issues involved in salvage. Basically there are two types of salvage, Pure salvage and contract salvage.
Contract salvage is when the owners or insurers of the casualty contract with a salvor to
solve a situation. The contract could be for a set amount or "No cure - No Pay". The lloyds open form is the most recognizable of the no cure forms.
Pure salvage is when their is no prior contracts between parties. If a ship were to be abandoned at sea, and was found/salved- the salvors would be entitled to compensation (but not title). Pure salvage is the hardest to get paid on.
Would be salvors cannot force their services on casulties. In other words if a ship is on the beach, you can't just go and force your sevices on the owner- he has a right to contract with
his own providers or resources. The whole premise of marine salvage is that the master/owners have an obligation to protect the property as if it were uninsured - no refusing services because you will have to pay!
there are 3 elements to a salvage situation:
1. There must be peril
2. the salvage must be successful (in whole or in part)
3. There must not be an obligation to salvage. ( the ships own crew or members of the military usually not eligible)

Salvage awards seem to be excessive to the general public. However, the reasoning behind
it is to encourage salvors to put their equipment and personnel in harms way with no guarantee of compensation (no cure no pay). The last thing that the world needs is to have
would be salvors turn their back on ships in peril- the appeal is the money.
As I write this, I'm aboard the Tug "Atlantic Salvor" in Port Newark (NY harbor) tied to the dock. We have been on for 7 days out of a 28 day rotation. We havn't left the dock except to shift a few barges locally and take 50,000 gallons of fuel last Friday ( 120,000 gallons aboard
which equals half capacity). All it takes is a phone call to make boredom turn to terror
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Old 05-12-2010, 07:56 AM   #4
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RE: salvage laws

Jack, I know you have shared stories with us before....feel free to continue doing so!!!!
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Old 05-12-2010, 09:46 AM   #5
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RE: salvage laws

We posted something on our site that might be of interest,
A much more editied version was published in Sail Magazine. They had to satisfy the lawyers. Chuck
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Old 05-12-2010, 03:41 PM   #6
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RE: salvage laws

Id like to address some points of your article on marine salvage ( I thought it was excellent by the way) from a salvors point of view.
The boater "who just paid a premium for a pump being rigged " sees this as overkill.
If things go wrong, the pump is in place to minimize damage and possibly save the lives of the casualty. What is the first thing the insurers/attorneys/Coast guard are going to say
if the down flooding starts? WHY didn't you have a pump rigged?

In the 1980's, I owned a Seatow licensed area (Boston) and we did towing and salvage on
pleasure boats and yachts.
Many times we were "beat up by the insurance companies" and paid little or nothing for our efforts. Remember, this whole issue was new to the public- No More free tows by the Coast Guard. The overall perception by the boating public was the coast guard would tow me in for free no matter what.

One labor dayweekend we were contacted by the coast guard to respond to a sail boat hard aground and pounding on the rocks. when we got there, the owner-who was an experienced
mariner and yacht broker(John Alden Agency), said it would be doubtful that the boat could be saved. We presented the owner with a SALVAGE contract that said so in huge bold lettrs on the top. I further explained to him that IF successful we would be pursuing a salvage claim
against the vsl and his insurers. I further explained that this contract provided for 3rd party arbitration if the insurers and salvors could not come to an agreement on a settlement. WHAT IS MORE FAIR THAN THAT?
We took the vessel of of the rocks in 2-3 hours with the assistance of another tug and my boat with no more damage than minor gouging of the lead keel and some deep scratches
on one side of the hull. Total repair to the sailboat was around 6-8k if I remember correctly.
This is usually where the owners have a bad case of amnesia. The owners boat was delivered to a haulout facility and removed from the water.
So now we have an owner who 5 hours ago basically had written off his boat as a constructive toatal loss, to the boat in a boatyard(of his choosing) out of the water and safe with minor damage mostly caused by sea swell while stranded.
The salved value was around $60-62k as determined by a damage survey. Salved value is the current market value minus the repair estimate.
We contacted his insurer- Ocean Underwriters of Cocoa Beach Florida and requested security
to be posted for $14,000 . Security IS NOT the salvage claim , it is a fund from which the award will come if it goes to arbitration.
Ocean underwriters refused to acknowledge that this was salvage and refused to post security at all. A settlement was not forthcoming and the insurers did everything they could to stall and made no attempt to remedy the case.
After much going back and forth, the insurers agreed to 3rd party arbitration. We agreed.
The insurance company told there side of the story-still insisting that it was towage and not salvage.
We provided documentation and pictures telling what we did etc.
The owner of the boat acted in the best tradition of the sea- he did everything possible
to save his vessel. Had he not accepted the services of a qualified salvor on scene, Ocean underwriters probably would have crucified him.
The arbitration/salvage award came down about 10 days later- $23,000 plus expenses a toatal of almost $41,000. This amount exceeded the 50% rule of salved value. The judge
dressed down the insurers for unnecessary expenses of trying to bully a small operator.

The issue here is not the salvage award (excessive in my opinion),but the refusal of an insurer of whats what. When we delivered the vsl to the boatyard and the owner was Very happy, we expected around 5-6k for our services.

Several years later I was sued by an irate owner who said he wasn't aground. The lawsuit was for 1,000,000 against me personnally. Once again documentation saved the day. We had picures of his new sea-ray almost all the way out of ther water with folded up props/rudders/shafts. Needless to say the judge was not ammused and the suit was thrown out. The cost of the suit was added to the salvage bill and paid promptly by the insurers.
The insurers knew nothing of the suit brought by the owner and agreed that the salvage was reasonable- the owner nerver even contacted his insurance company until after the suit.

I have also been on salvage case where we were paid nothing-because it was no cure no pay.
We also salvaged a Coats Guard 41' UTB that had stranded in Scituate Harbor in the winter time. We provided services at no cost to the Government and were happy to do it.
We received a commendation letter from CG Group Boston for that one.
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