remote sensing techniques, provide salvage personnel with information that can improve decision making. Economic and incident response decision-making constraints, not technology, are the limiting factors in salvage today.
With the high capital cost of dedicated salvage equipment, the use of fly-away salvage units is rising in the United States. These are equipment packages that can be transported by commercial air freight and typically contain pumping, firefighting, and basic salvage tools and spill response equipment. The fly-away concept involves rapid deployment of response equipment and personnel within hours of a casualty. Although the concept has been well publicized, to fully realize the benefits of fly-away capability the physical presence of significant seagoing assets also is needed.
The government continues to maintain a salvage response capability, but these resources are limited—usually from the U.S. Navy Supervisor of Salvage. They are made available for commercial use only when commercial assets are not available. The Navy Office of the Supervisor of Salvage still relies heavily on its commercial salvage contractors (three at this writing) to carry out actual operations and to provide salvage engineering and related technical assistance beyond the Navy's own capability. The Coast Guard, by expanding its strike team concept, has increased the number of people and equipment capacity available to respond to spill and salvage incidents. The Coast Guard's equipment and procedures closely parallel that of salvor and/or oil spill response organizations, although it has not been directly tasked to include salvage response as one of its missions. Recently, both the Navy and the Coast Guard have been heavily involved in salvage situations, particularly those involving extensive pollution or the threat of it. Traditionally, however, the government has participated in commercial salvage only as a salvor of last resort.
Two additional factors have influenced the marine salvage industry since 1982. First, those responding to a salvage situation historically were concerned with saving the hull and cargo, and salvage decisions were made solely by the salvor and shipowner. Today, when pollution is involved, the response is highly regulated, and the outcome is determined by a consensus-based decision-making process involving the salvor, shipowner, and federal and state governments. Second, exceedingly high liability and cleanup costs of an environmental casualty have underscored the importance of adequate salvage response in preventing severe economic repercussions to the owner and underwriter. Significantly, tank vessel contingency plans required by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) require vessel operators to certify that adequate salvage capability is available, through either contract or other approved means (33 CFR 155.1035).
Over the past 20 years, significant changes in the maritime industry and the world at large have prompted alterations in long-standing principles of salvage. The primary force driving these shifts has been increasing interest in environmental protection. This interest was sparked by major oil spills, beginning in 1967 with the loss of the Torrey Canyon off the coast of England, and continuing with the 1978 Amoco Cadiz spill near France, the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, and more recently the Aegean Sea spill in 1992 off Spain and the 1993 Braer spill in Scotland.
Continuing pressure from environmental concerns and coastal interests resulted in major changes in the regulatory regime of the marine transportation industry since 1982. The traditional principles of salvage law were modified in the International Salvage Convention (ISC) of 1989. This convention, ratified by the United States but not yet in force internationally, specifically identifies the salvor's duty to protect the environment and authorizes a special compensation award to promote it. Prior to these modifications, the ISC of 1910 provided that the salvor's award would depend on the voluntary nature, difficulty, and especially the success of the salvage