The Basics Of Salvaging A Vessel

 In Maritime Law

Marine SalvageMany of us have been patiently waiting to see what would finally happen with the Costa Concordia. It has been two years since this particular cruise ship sunk off the coast of Italy. It got a few of us at the firm thinking. 

What if we found an abandoned boat or have salvaged a boat. Do you get to keep it?

Unfortunately, in the state of Florida the answer is no because Florida is a title state. Simply put, this means that in order to possess a vessel a person needs to have a title. However, a person may still be able to salvage a vessel and get paid.

Salvage law dates back to very long ago, back as far as medieval times. It is well known that vessels carry cargo. In an effort to encourage sailors to save ships in peril as well as the cargo it carried, salvage law developed to reward those who saved vessels in peril and its respective cargo.

Under federal maritime law, salvage is defined as a reward or compensation in saving maritime property at risk or in distress by those under no legal obligation to render aid. As a result of rendering aid, a person may have a claim for the value of the effort exerted on saving the vessel. In Fine v. Rockwood salvage “is a bounty given on the grounds of public policy to encourage the rescue of life and property imperiled at sea and to foster maritime commerce.”

Further, the Salvage Convention of 1989 lays out the requirements for what is considered salvage assistance. A three-prong test is used to determine whether a vessel has been salvaged:

  1. the assisted vessel is subject to a reasonable apprehension of marine peril;
  2. the assistance is voluntary; and
  3. the assistance is successful in whole or part.

After successfully salvaging the vessel, a salvor is not entitled to keep the vessel. However, the salvor is entitled to a generous award. Calculating the award is a different story. A court will look at several factors including:

  1. the value of the vessel and its contents after the salvage is complete;
  2. the salvor’s skill and initiative in minimizing damage to the environment;
  3. the degree of success obtained by the salvor;
  4. the level of peril to which the salvaged vessel was subject;
  5. the salvor’s skill and initiative in saving the vessel, human lives, and other property;
  6. the salvor’s labor and expenses;
  7. the amount of risk run by the salvor;
  8. the promptness of the services rendered;
  9. the availability and use of any alternative salvage resources; and
  10. the readiness, efficiency, and value of the salvor’s vessel and equipment.

Just by quickly looking at the list, it is obvious that courts strongly favor the salvor. The justification is that salvors should be compensated for their time and trouble as well as being able to receive a bonus as an inducement to render assistance from the start.

If you or someone you know has salvaged a vessel and would like to know if you have a claim, feel free to contact me for a free consultation.

Image courtesy of by cbenjasuwan


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