The legal concept that a marine salvor is entitled to a reward for the saving of imperilled marine property has been a recognized part of the admiralty law for more than 3,000 years.
SALCON 89 – International convention on Salvage 1989, replaced an old salvage convention adopted in Brussels in 1910, there was “‘no cure, no pay” principle earlier, means a salvor is only rewarded for services if the operation is successful. New 1989 Convention, introduced “special compensation” to be paid to salvors who have failed to earn a reward in the normal way (i.e. by salving the ship and cargo). Special Compensation is additional payment of 30 to 100% of the salvor’s expenses, which is for their effort to save environment, marine life, human health and resources, which were unrecognised earlier.
Myth – The law of salvage is a concept in maritime law which states that a person who recovers another person’s ship or cargo after peril or loss at sea is entitled to a reward commensurate with the value of the property so saved.
Fact – Even when a vessel is “abandoned” and left without intention to return or hope of recovery, the vessel remains the property of her owner absent some affirmative act by the owner which clearly and convincingly establishes a positive intent on the part of the owner to part with ownership.
Many salvage operations have been undertaken over the century, these numbers are more than what people hoped for. Some of them are famous because of name attached to it.
The wreck was found in 1985, 73 years after the ship sank, now the ship structure is so fragile that it cannot be salvaged, however salvagers has recovered many artifacts from within the ship.
In 1985, a joint American-French expedition discovered the wreck of the Titanic in the North Atlantic Ocean in international waters. Two years later, Titanic Ventures, a limited partnership, explored the wreck, bringing up approximately 1,800 artifacts. Thereafter, it sold its interests in the salvage operations and the artifacts to RMST.
In 1993, RMST commenced this in rem action against the Titanic to become its salvor-in-possession.
German Fleet in Scapa Flow
It is the biggest salvage operation in the history. After the end of World War I, Germans decided to scuttle their fleet to avoid being seized by Allies. There were 74 German ships in Scapa Flow, Scotland, UK after WWI, waiting for their fate after surrender, on German commander’s order all were planned to scuttle (puncturing the hull by opening sea valves, opening port holes etc). On 21st June 1919, 52 warships out of 74 warships were scuttled, and these became biggest wreck in the history. New salvage technique was developed, hull were patched, air was pumped in to make the ship rise to the surface. One of the salvage operation was costing £30000, about 45 ships were salvaged in next 20 years. 7 wrecks are still there and designated as monuments, used by divers for underwater tourism.
7th December 1941, Japan sank 5 battleships, 2 destroyers, a target ship and a mine layer of American Navy at Pearl Harbor. Within 6 months US Navy refloated 5 ships and 2 cruisers by patching holes and pumping out water. Later, 20000 underwater man-hours were spent for another year to salvage remaining ships, which were not successful. It was one of the most difficult salvage operations in history.
114,500-ton cruise ship Costa Concordia capsized at island of Giglio in January 2012, killing 32 people. Ship was turned upright and secured to an artificial platform after a massive salvage operation in September 2013, in May 2014 she was towed 240-km to Genoa.
Submerged platform and around 30 buoyancy tanks were used to refloat and tow the ship, it was the largest salvage operation ever attempted, and the most expensive, at a cost of $1.5 billion so far.
12th August 2000, Russian nuclear submarine Kursk sank in the Barents Sea due to an internal explosion, it led to death of 118 sailors and officers. It had 2 nuclear reactor, so eliminating this hazard was necessary. In 2001A portion of the destroyed submarine was raised to the surface in October 2001 to recover the bodies and eliminate the hazard from the Kursk’s two nuclear reactors.
Cost of Salvation was USD 65mn,it took 5 months to refloat the submarine wreck.
In July 2006, Cougar Ace,of MOL, was packed with 4,700 Mazda cars and Isuzu trucks for North-American market, value of cars was 117 million. The ship was bound from Japan to Vancouver, Canada when a ballast operation caused 60degree list to ship.
Ship[ was rightened on 16th August 2006, the salvage team, TITAN had to work solidly for 24 days straight to try and save the vessel and its extremely lucrative cargo.
Only 46 cars were damaged during this incident, however Mazda announced scrapping of all cars; till 2008 all cars were scrapped.
Besides cumbersome efforts and innovative techniques there are certain equipment which are commonly used for modern salvage operations;
- High viscosity hydraulic pumps to transfer/ pump out highly viscous fuel oil to be used
- High power winches – installed on barge or another vessel
- Air baloons, or air bags, sponsons to give additional buoyancy
- Underwater cutting equipments –usually hydraulically operated, it can be custom made for the purpose and made of tunguston carbide tip or dimond tip tools.
- Floating crane, barge, tug boats
- Diving team
- Wire ropes, chains etc