Search This Blog

Monday, March 26, 2012

‘Pre salvage casualty survey & Planning’ : heard at IIMS, Chennai

World recognizes and hails heroes; but the victory path is enabled or made easy by many unseen silent unsung warriors.  To succeed one has to plan.  The speaker started saying ‘if you fail to plan; you plan to fail’.  Everyday life is learning and there are days when you are presented with opportunities to learn more.

It was an evening at Sea Farers’ Club in Chennai and I had the pleasure of attending a  conference organized by International Institute of Marine Surveying.  I have heard some little of ‘what is marine survey’ is all about.  Have also heard of ‘salvage, salvors and the practice of assistance at sea’. I went to hear Anthony W.J. Fernandez, Average Adjuster (popularly Tony) speak on ‘Marine Salvage Operations’ and bountiful of information was to be begotten.  Sure would write a separate post on something I learnt.  But before that (the lecture was after that of Tony) on how I was stumped.  To many Insurers now, ‘pre-despatch survey(Marine); pre-acceptance survey (Marine, EE, MB, Motor, Hull), spot-survey; loss-assessment survey; reinspection et al., are general names.  I had no inkling on what ‘Pre salvage casualty survey & Planning’; honestly, I was not aware that such a thing existed !!

The other day, around 11 pm in the night, my car suddenly stopped at GST Road and in the maddening flow of traffic, it was a nightmare I start as repeated attempts to start the vehicle failed.  – and here the speaker started off saying ‘when a ship flounders, most often it does at most difficult places’ – well, ships operate in high seas, not on motorable roads and naturally access is less one thought, he went on to describe those difficult places as places to which one could not have access geographically, in and around hostile countries and places where environmental damage is often feared.
reaching out to the Ship stranded at mid sea is the most difficult task !!

The first of the slides quoted :  -C. A. BartholomewMud, Muscles, and Miracles: Marine Salvage – which read of the definition of Marine Salvage as :

A  science of vague assumptions based on debatable figures taken from
inconclusive experiments and performed with instruments of problematic accuracy
by persons of doubtful reliability and questionable mentality

and by the time he finished his speech, I had understood that the World has progressed a longway since……. 

For the not so well informed, Marine salvage is the process of recovering a ship, its cargo, or other property after a shipwreck. A ship is so good as long as it sails, but there could be circumstances where she loser her stability and sink, or touch ground known as ‘agrounding’; she may lose her engine power or could drift due to various reasons including currents and storms.  Salvage encompasses towing, refloating a sunken or grounded vessel, or patching or repairing a ship. Today the protection of the environment from cargoes such as oil or other contaminants is often considered a high priority.  These acts at sea are rendered by specialists known as  "Salvors".  Great expertise is required in successfully conducting such acts and they may employ  cranes, floating dry docks and divers to lift and repair ships for short journeys to safety towed by a tugboat.   Hull and Cargo Policies provide for payment of such expenses.  Infact the salvors have a lien on the saved property to the extent of their remuneration.  Mostly it is rendered on ‘No Cure No pay’ basis, though there are various other forms of contract entered into at the time of rendering salvage. 

You might have heard and read about recent incidents of acts of salvors in the collision that occurred near Mumbai involving MSC Chitra or the one at Tauranga – MV Rena………..    This particular presentation exhibited various aspects of ‘pre-survey’ that is assessment of the various conditions before the act of salvage is embarked by a professional team. 

If pre-survey itself was a methodical way of preparation, he spoke of ‘table-top’ survey.  It was a systematic planning made at the desk i.e., in office, before one actually proceeds to the location. Yes the location is bound to be tough and the job even tougher; but there can never be any half-measures, so one has to have all the equipments required, need to know before starting where the place is, how to gain access physically, the formalities in obtaining necessary permission, the art of planning and planting help and aides all along the track, arranging for the various modes to reach and to have in place the mechanism and equipment required to succeed.  Extremely difficult and hence has to be planned meticulously..  I never thought it would involve so many things.  

In a nutshell, it was all about gleaning complete details of :
Location of casualty;
Permission and permits required ;
Information of / from casualty
Risk assessment
Right and adequate equipment

Remember,  this is no conduct of salvage operations but an eye-opener which will tell what it is and how difficult it is enabling the ‘salvor’ conduct the operation with ease and higher probability of success.  And for gleaning such factual information by visiting the spot of loss physically, so much work goes in planning how to reach there and how to carry out such assessment was what was spoken.  It left no doubt as to how difficult it would be to conduct this type of operation that too at hostile lands, most difficult places with least manpower and depending entirely on what one carries and what would be available at hand.
Sea is wraught with dangers ! strong currents can sweep one away
The presentation was replete with details of the types of damage and the possible reaction / precaution that surveyors will have to take citing an example of shifting to different modes of transport to reach and then walking on muddy murky waters which could only be done at low ebb and thus having to plan about the tidal position and timing the job to nicety.

It was not about physically reaching and taking photos – more of studying and analyzing the situation including assessment of remnant gases; ballast, stability, breaking waves, force of waves, the depth, coral reefs, rocks, marine life, the dangers from them and more.  The slides casually revealed more of the many facets of the speaker.  He has professional diving skills, to be employed when the hull condition is to be assessed with no professional divers around; knowledge of photo-equipments which would work under water; flying skills to see and show things in the perspective of ‘bird’s eye-view’ and more – really breathtaking.    The preliminary’s scope appeared demanding and ever expanding to include ‘hydrographic survey; study of tidal waves’ and more. 

I was really over-awed hearing Mr Milind Tambe exhibit his practical experience so lucidly.  Had earlier posted about some acts of Marine salvage, now could understand how difficult even to conceptualise saving a ship that has run aground or is about to sink !

Many thanks to IIMS and special thanks to my friend Mr TS Shrinivasan, Martec Surveyors for giving me this opportunity.  Thanks to people like Milind, Tony, Satish Anand and many more who are keen to impart whatever they learnt by arduous experience, the World is able to learn – may such tribe grow more !!

Mr Milind Tambe is the Managing Director of  Troupe7 Consultants P Ltd who offer services in the fields of Marine, Industrial and Cargo survey and are utilized by P&I Clubs, Hull & Machinery Underwriters, Ship Owners, Charterers, Maritime lawyers and the like. 

With great regards – S. Sampathkumar.

PS : gratefully acknowledge the photos of ship salvage – courtesy : Mr Milind
Tambe, Troupe7 Consultants


  1. Good one - well articulated Sirji - Gautam

  2. simply awesome - how tough it is out there

  3. for 2 wheeler riders like us, everything is simply amazing - Thiyagu

  4. appears to be a promo for a group and in particular for a company...................................

  5. Great piece for a budding surveyor... very well written Sir- many thanks - Mukherjee