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Old 15-03-2010, 04:06   #1
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Maritime Law of Salvage ?

I didn't want to hijack the "Disaster!" thread, so I'm posting this here:

A few people have stated that a vessel unmanned and adrift can be claimed as salvage. Does that include inland waters? What are the limits to this?

A link to some kind of official documentation, be it US or International would be nice, instead of the usual sea-lawyering. (cough, Gord, cough)

Thanks!
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Old 15-03-2010, 04:52   #2
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Good project Bubblehead, how about YOU researching and letting US know?
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Old 15-03-2010, 06:12   #3
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Fine then. I encourage others to help me vet my sources and to correctly interpret what I find.

I skipped right past Wikipedia and I found this link from admiriality law: International Convention on Salvage (London 1989)

So far, I've learned that salvage law is much more complicated than "Finders Keepers".

It seems that according to these conventions, if you salvage a vessel, you DO have to return it to the owner if they pay you the worth of the vessel and it's contents. I'm guessing that where the "finders keepers" comes into play, is when insurance companies refuse to pay out or the owners don't have the value of their vessel and the contents laying around in cash to remove the lien on their vessel so the salvor gets to keep it.

I'll keep digging and post more as I find it.

Edit: Found mostly what I was looking for. The "Law of Finds" differs from Salvage Law in that Salvage Law authorizes the salvor to posess the property but not own it. The Law of Finds applies to vessels that are underwater, and have been abandonded for years.

Second Edit: Here is a somewhat recent link, written by a US law graduate, who was given an award for the paper, which clearly explains the difference between salvage and finds, and cites several legal precedents. Makes for fascinating reading.

http://www.rms-republic.com/referenc...o1Article6.pdf
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Old 15-03-2010, 06:32   #4
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There was a case in South Africa where a couple needed to be evacuated from their sailboat due to a medical emergency (hand-held flare exploded).

A salvage company immediately took hold of the boat, and demanded salvage rights to it. The couple managed to get the boat back without paying the huge fee because they were able to show that they did not abandon the boat. The proof they provided was that they left their cat on board. This showed their intent to return, and the court gave them back their boat.

Of course this is only one case, and I am sure that there are many others that did not go this way.
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Old 15-03-2010, 06:39   #5
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Yes, in my reading so far, I've seen some funky examples of what constitutes "occupation" vs."abandonment" of vessels and property.
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Old 15-03-2010, 07:12   #6
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I guess the interesting question is, is there a difference between adrift and dragging anchor? I would submit that in the case of "disaster" this was just a very bad case of dragging anchor, since the anchoring device was still in the water. I've seen many cases of unmanned vessels dragging anchor and fellow cruisers coming to the rescue to reset the anchor. Does this mean that the owner owes these people for the value of the vessel and its contents?
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Old 15-03-2010, 07:27   #7
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If you ask a lawyer about salvage rights, they run away screaming that you should consult an attorney who specializes in maritime law. There's a reason for that, as you folks who are researching are finding out. Have fun.
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Old 15-03-2010, 07:36   #8
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As as diver i was very much aware that if a vesell sunk at its mooring the law of finds did not apply,the vessel was still considered to be non salvage.

there is also another strange law in the UK,if a vessels cargo washes ashore and lands between the high and low tidal marks then its anyones,there was the recent much publicised containers with brand new BMW motorcycles in them,the cops watched whilst people just took them away.It all stems from a very old law
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Old 15-03-2010, 07:42   #9
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In my international law class we learned that one cannot necessarily claim for their own property that's seemingly been abandoned. Many people mistakenly seem to believe that you can claim whatever you want regardless of the situation.

Also, international salvage laws might be different from the laws of the different countries. As mentioned, nothing is simple with this.

One thing to consider if there is a dispute, are the legal fees potentially more than the value of the claim?

The bottom line is if you come upon another vessel abandoned and adrift, submerged or upon the beach, its not necessarily yours to keep or to ask money for its release.
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Old 15-03-2010, 07:50   #10
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This is an article that was written by noted Admiralty attorney Andrew Anderson, of Miami, and published in the University of San Francisco Law Review. It is quite extensive and specifically deals with the salvage issues impacting recreational boaters.

Marine Salvage & Recreational Boaters: Modern Concepts & Misconceptions - Introduction

Be warned, this is a long article of about 26 pages. You might be very surprised by what you read here.
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Old 15-03-2010, 07:56   #11
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One thing folks: there are no "Laws" as we commonly refer to them that cover salvage, except for the aforementioned SALCON89. What I mean is, Admiralty Law isn't codified in the US Code or CFRs. Salvage cases are argued on precedent of previous cases. This makes any research of "Salvage Law" very frustrating for the layman. You can't just look up what the rule is, other than to review past cases.

SALCON89 is NOT a law, it is a treaty. Easy read of it here:
SalCon89
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Old 15-03-2010, 07:59   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bastonjock View Post
As as diver i was very much aware that if a vesell sunk at its mooring the law of finds did not apply,the vessel was still considered to be non salvage.

there is also another strange law in the UK,if a vessels cargo washes ashore and lands between the high and low tidal marks then its anyones,there was the recent much publicised containers with brand new BMW motorcycles in them,the cops watched whilst people just took them away.It all stems from a very old law
No - not true. Yes the Police did just stand and watch (It was container cargo on the MV Napoli that sank just up the coast from here) but they later apologised for that - they did not know what the law was or what they should do. The BMWs were all later recovered as was most of the other cargo.

In the UK, anything that washes up off a ship can be removed but you are required by law to declare it to the receiver of wrecks to whom it belongs.
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Old 15-03-2010, 08:01   #13
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What IS salvage?

From SALCON89, Chapter One, Article 1:
1. Salvage operation means any act or activity undertaken to assist a vessel or any other property in danger in navigable waters or in any other waters whatsoever.

ANY act or activity undertaken to assist....

The only thing to really left to argue about is the word "danger". See Blackwall for that.
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Old 15-03-2010, 08:50   #14
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Hmm Interesting . . .

Lloyds of London state that salvage is only available if:

A, The vessel is unmanned
B, The vessel is in need of assistance
C, The salvers have gone out of their way to offer assistance

Much has been written about the offering and accepting of lines when in need of a tow.
Taking a line from another vessel does not confer any rights upon that vessel. All it means is that they offered you a tow.
The confusion about the offering and accepting of lines is that iff two vessels are approaching a vessel in need of salvage then the vessel that gets a secure line on first does have some additional rights when the offer of contract (Usually "Lloyds Open Form")for the salvage is offered.

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Old 15-03-2010, 09:40   #15
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that's funny, I don't see Lloyds of London as a signitory country on SALCON89...
I believe in a court of law, an international treaty will take precedence over what "Lloyds of London says"...

BTW, in the USA, no one is using Lloyd's Open Form anymore, as it requires disputes to be settled in London.
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