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Elements of Marine Salvage
Maritime law requires the presence of three elements to allow
for a marine salvage award:

- A marine peril
- A voluntary act by a salvor
- A successful outcome

Salvage is an important aspect of maritime law. It is historically
rooted in ancient times when the perils of going to sea were
much more difficult to control than they are today. Maritime law
recognized the need to offer an incentive to the vessel that
strayed from its course, caused delays and financial harm to its
owners, and jeopardized the lives of its crew in rushing to the
assistance of a vessel that was in peril. This was especially
true in the age of sail, where a ship was at the mercy of the
prevailing winds, tides and other weather conditions. To reward
the rescuer (who is legally designated as a
salvor) for risking a
grounding on shoals, granite reefs or other navigational hazard
in coming to the aid of a stricken vessel, maritime law
developed the concept of salvage.

A recent federal court decision dealing with salvage law
provides a legal analysis on the element of a marine peril. The
11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in
Cape Ann Towing v.
M/Y Universal Lady followed the appeal of a salvage claim that
arose from moving a yacht during hurricane conditions. The
court upheld the decision of the lower district court, which held
that at the time the yacht was moved, the weather had
dramatically improved, that the yacht was afloat and secured by
a rope to another boat, and that there was no evidence that the
concrete pilings in the area had damaged or posed risk to the
yacht's hull.

The court decision is in Adobe PDF format so you will have to
wait a few seconds for the decision to appear.
Tugs that work the maritime salvage trade are a breed in
themselves. Equipped with strong towing gear, massive
horsepower powerplants, and often weighing in at higher
tonnages than most coastal freighters, these ocean-going tugs
might be the only chance of salvation for a stricken cargo carrier
off Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope. However, these
specialized tugs are expensive to maintain for a one-mission role
and have declined in numbers around the world.