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Monday, January 2, 2012

What is salvage in Marine and OSM Arena being towed to safety !!

Cyclone Thane ravaged Pondy and Cuddalore – this photo of Dinamalar threatens memory of the Tsunami of 2004.

Ships are massive…. Made of steel, having so many machineries, carrying so many men as its crew, has supplies, carries thousands of tonnes of cargo -  but yet floats and sails, carrying cargo from one place to another – it is always a marvel.  To float there are the principles of Density and Buoyancy.   They have wide hull bottoms and have a massive draft beneath the water ensuring that they displace enough amount of water to remain afloat.    In physics, buoyancy is a force exerted by a fluid that opposes an object's weight. An object whose density is greater than that of the fluid in which it is submerged tends to sink. If the object is either less dense than the liquid or is shaped appropriately, the force can keep the object afloat.   The great principle of Archimedes is that an object in a fluid experiences an upward force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object.

When the ship is in control and steered in the desired direction, the destination is reached but when it flounders, it runs aground, would be extremely difficult to be pulled back and might end up as a wreck.  It cannot be allowed to rest as it is either in the mouth of a harbour or even in a sea bed – it not only contains valuable cargo, machinery – its intrinsic value also would run into crores.  Once the floatation is lost, it is difficult to pull it back to waters – more so if it gets embedded in to sands and dunes.

Left uncared for, the strong waves would render it a wreck sooner.. it would no longer be a ship – the marine term for this is ‘loss of specie’. 

Vessels which run aground or adrift or without working machinery are saved by acts of salvage.  Don’t confuse by the terminology, which has a different meaning in property insurance – which is ‘residual value’. Here salvage is rescue and those engaged for towing the vessel to safety are known as salvors.  The act of salvage is extremely difficult as it is rendered not on hard but many times in mid-sea.  The principles  of salvage and salvage law have evolved over many centuries. A fundamental concept is that the salvor should be encouraged by the prospect of an appropriate salvage award to intervene in any casualty situation to salve the ship, property and, in particular, to save life and prevent pollution. The salvor's right to a reward is based on natural equity, which allows the salvor to participate in the benefit conferred to shipowner, the ship itself and the ship's cargo.

Marine salvage is the process of rescuing a ship, its cargo, or other property from peril. Salvage encompasses rescue towing, refloating a sunken or grounded vessel, or patching or repairing a ship. Now in tune with the changing times, preventing pollution and damage to the Marine environment becomes the immediate priority when the vessel involved has substantial oil as cargo or in its holds as bunker fuel.

"Salvors" are seamen and engineers who carry out salvage to vessels that are not owned by themselves, and who are not members of the vessel's original crew.  They are highly skilled and employ equipments including cranes, tugs, floating dry docks and more.  Often salvage is arranged on ‘No Cure No Pay’ basis and the form that is universally in vogue is ‘Lloyd’s Form of Salvage agreement’ known as LOF form – LOF 2000 [the suffix would mean the year of the edition being used].   In return for salvage  assistance rendered, the Salvors are entitled to proportion of the saved value depending upon the difficulty and other parameters.    The concept of no payment when no recovery is also changing reflecting the public interest in the operation of saving the subject matter as also preventing damage to the environment.   

There is an association for the professional salvors known as - International Salvage Union (ISU).  Its members  provide essential services for the world's maritime and insurance communities. Members are engaged in marine casualty response, pollution defence, wreck removal, cargo recovery, towage and related activities.

Sec 65 of the Marine Insurance Act 1963 defines Salvage charges :
(1) Subject to any express provision in the policy, salvage charges incurred in preventing a loss by perils insured against may be recovered as a loss by those perils.

(2) "Salvage charges" means the charges recoverable under maritime law by a salvor independently of contract. They do not include the expenses of services in the nature of salvage rendered by the assured or his agents, or any person employed for hire by them, for the purpose of averting a peril insured against. Such expenses, where properly incurred, may be recovered as particular charges or as a general average loss, according to the circumstances under which they were incurred.

The  South Korean flagged Bulk carrier cargo ship with IMO No. 8411334  got mired into controversies and from its position at outer anchorage went adrift during the severe cyclone Thane.  It reached closer to Anna Square at around 500 meters away from the shore behind the Navy Quarters nearer Napier Bridge in Chennai.  The vessel has not run aground and is being pulled back to its position by employing tugs and other boats.  Here is a photo that appeared in tamil daily Dinamalar – the act of salvaging.
Seemingly, the Port vessels are engaged in salvaging and not any professional salvor involved – may be due to the fact that the ship is under litigation and so many parties are claiming dues from out of the sale of the vessel.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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