What is the Law of Salvage

The law of salvage is provided for under maritime law and states that a salvor (person who salvages a vessel or cargo from peril at sea) be entitled to an award in line with the value of the vessel or cargo saved. The law of salvage is ancient in its origins and is recognized in almost all countries across the globe, with certain salvage conditions varying from one jurisdiction to another.

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The Scope of salvage law

The law of salvage is built around the concept that if a person puts themselves at risk for the purpose of recovering another vessel, that person should be appropriately awarded. Under salvage law, salvage is broadly defined as a ship, craft, cargo on board, freight payable and bunkers that are in danger and rescued from the sea. By providing sanctions for salvage, the risk of pirates seizing abandoned vessels is reduced, and valuable cargo can be recovered to its original and rightful owner.

As mentioned, the law of salvage is universal and recognized in jurisdictions worldwide. It is based on common law and stipulates that any volunteer (salvor) who rescues a vessel or its cargo without having a pre-existing contract, and who acts in such a manner as to put himself at risk or danger in doing so, will be rewarded in line with the value of the salvage. It should be noted that marine salvage is only justified where the vessel and its cargo are in danger or at peril on the sea and require rescuing.

Salvage laws are provided for on an international scale, however their regulations and scope vary according to the jurisdiction and so it is vital that you are aware of the appropriate terms and conditions of the law of salvage in your country, prior to committing to an act of salvage. In general, for framework for salvage law remains the same in each country, and requires:

  • The vessel to be in peril
  • The salvor to be a volunteer
  • The salvor to be successful in his/her salvage quest

Both the owner of the salvaged vessel and the salvor are provided for under the law of salvage, that is, both parties are taken into account with regards to how the salvage will be disposed of. It is specifically required however, that the owner of a salvaged ship and its cargo must make some form of remuneration to compensate the salvor and his/her efforts of performing the salvage.

In general, the law is created in such a way as to do that is fair for both the salvor and the original owner of the rescued property.