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Salvage & Towage Claims

When a vessel is in distress, stranded aground, or otherwise in peril, the general maritime law of the United States entitles the person who voluntarily saves the vessel to a reward or compensation commensurate with the value of the property saved. The entitlement to reward or compensation is unique to maritime law, when compared to state or federal good Samaritan laws which protect voluntary rescuers from liability for civil damages caused during the rescue.

Under maritime law, the person who voluntarily saves a vessel is referred to as the Salvor. Most salvors work for companies which undertake salvage operations professionally. Upon completion of the salvage operation, if the vessel owner and salvor cannot agree to the amount of compensation or reward, the salvor most likely will sue the vessel in rem and the vessel’s owner.

For the salvor to recover, they must prove three elements:

  1. A maritime peril placed the maritime vessel or property at risk of loss, damage, or destruction; and

  2. The salvage operation must have been completed voluntarily and otherwise not required by some pre-existing duty or contract; and

  3. The salvage operation must have been successful either in part or in whole.

The existence of a maritime peril is key to a salvage claim arising from the rescue of a vessel in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Absent a maritime peril, any aid given will most likely be categorized as towage. And the tower will only be entitled to compensation at its usual contract rate. Whether you are seeking to assert a salvage claim, trying to determine if you have a salvage or towage claim, or a salvage or towage claim is asserted against you or your vessel, call 813-825-1267 or email me, a Tampa Bay maritime attorney, for a confidential consultation and initial case review.

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