What is pure salvage

Pure salvage, also known as merit salvage, is the term given when a person recovers property (known as the salvor) without a contract between the salvor and the rightful owner of the property. There are two forms of salvage recognized under Admiralty Law, namely, Contract and Pure salvage. It is prudent to understand the variations in salvage laws and contracts in countries that you operate your vessel, and it is suggested that a maritime specialist consultancy firm is enlisted to provide you with the appropriate information.

Scope of pure salvage

As mentioned, pure salvage is the official title for salvage that is performed by an individual who has no contract with the original owner of the goods recovered. In other words, there is no contract of salvage drafted by the owner of the goods, instead, there is a relationship as implied by law between the owner and salvor. Where a claim for salvage arises, the applicable courts can determine the implied relationship between the salvor and the owner of the goods, and it is therefore important to be aware of your rights as both an owner of goods and a salvor. The law with regards to pure salvage may vary from one jurisdiction to another as each country adopts a legal framework for salvage process that is in line with their overall objectives.

On recovering property, a salvor is required to bring a claim of salvage to the appropriate court. It is then at the discretion of the court to decide whether the award salvage or not based upon a number of factors, including:

  • Value of the property salvaged
  • Merit of the salvage

Pure salvages will entitle the salvor to receive a proportion of the rescued property, however, this sum rarely exceeds 50% of the value of the salvage. In regards to the salvage of treasure, pure salvage will many times award to salvor with full salvage rights over the property. This is usually because the treasure in most cases will have been lost for hundreds of years.

Under pure salvage, there are two types of claims, namely, high-order and low-order claims.

High-order: is where the salvor has been exposed to risk of loss, damage or injury, in order to perform the salvage.

Low-order: is where the salvor was not exposed to risk or loss of any significance, in order to conduct the salvage.

Typically, under a high-order salvage claim, the salvor is entitled to receive a larger salvage award compared to a low-order salvor claim, and this is primarily as a result of the level of risk the individual (and crew) were exposed to in order to rescue the property.