Salvage & Recovery
The definition of salvage is “saving property in peril at sea and reducing environmental damage.” Salvage is also “all the actions taken aboard and ashore to resolve a marine casualty and to save property in peril at sea.”
There are four items that must be present for any situation to be considered a salvage. They are:
- Voluntary (no pre-existing contractual relationship to provide the services)
- Success (in part or in whole)
- The object must be a recognized subject of salvage (i.e., have value)
Most all of the on the-water services performed by Sea Tow involve vessels in some degree of peril and are therefore technically salvage. The difference is that many of these services are low peril, for example, covered ungroundings, jump starts and fuel drops, which are covered by your Sea Tow membership and are provided free of charge.
Services not covered under a Sea Tow membership are billed at a rate according the services provided and corresponding situation. Oftentimes whether a service is covered or not cannot be determined until the Sea Tow Captain is on-scene with a disabled vessel due to the ever changing nature of the marine environment. If conditions permit, the Sea Tow Captain will evaluate the situation and inform the owner if the required services are not covered under the membership program before providing service. If the services are not covered, the boat insurer or the owner will be responsible for the cost of services provided outside of the membership program. Costs for services may be invoiced in several different ways depending on the situation. These include: Time and Materials (T&M), Flat Fee or in cases of Pure Salvage, the salvor may submit for a salvage award.
Salvage awards are based upon several factors including, but not limited to, the value of what the salvor has saved. It should be noted that the greater the peril, the higher the cost of service is likely to be. In cases involving high risk, the cost of the service often cannot be determined until the service is performed. In cases where the vessel or object has no value and is a total loss, the services provided would be considered Wreck Removal. When conditions permit, and you feel comfortable doing so, you can attempt to negotiate a fee arrangement with the Sea Tow Captain.
Sea Tow endorses the U.S. Open Form Salvage Agreement, known as the MARSALV contract (view PDF). As with any event, reaching an agreement concerning the terms of the service can avoid unpleasant surprises later. However, if, as determined by the Sea Tow Captain, your vessel is in imminent danger of being damaged or damaging the environment or other boats, you may be legally required to take all steps necessary to protect the vessel immediately. Great care to protect lives, property and the environment are always our top priority.
It is extremely important that you have sufficient and proper insurance coverage for your vessel. As long as your vessel is properly insured, the cost of services provided outside the membership program will most likely be covered by your hull insurance policy. If the vessel is not properly insured, the owner is wholly responsible for all charges associated with the performance of services outside of the membership program.
The foregoing is offered for general information purposes only, and may not be construed as a legal opinion.