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A Reassessment of the Marine Salvage Posture of the United States
experienced personnel in more conventional marine business. Salvage has become only one segment of the organization's business.
Compensation for salvage has not kept pace with either the changing roles or increased financial risks of the salvor.
In the United States, the salvor no longer is in charge of the decision-making process employed in responding to a marine casualty, particularly one involving pollution or the threat of it. Instead, the salvor's role is to assist and provide direction to a Unified Command System involving the federal government, state government(s), and the responsible party (vessel or cargo owner or designee).
As a result of these trends, today the U.S. salvage capability is found in a small number of professional salvage companies, some dealing only with a specialized and limited aspect of salvage. Nevertheless, response to vessel casualties that have occurred in the United States since 1982 has been timely and effective. The committee did not identify a pattern of failure to respond because of the lack of salvage capability.
NATIONAL SALVAGE POSTURE
Despite the good response record of salvors in recent years, the committee perceives possible deficiencies in U.S. salvage capability. Conclusions regarding these potential deficiencies and recommendations for addressing them are outlined in the following sections.
COMPENSATION FOR SALVAGE
The committee concludes that, because of the change in societal values as they relate to salvage—from an emphasis on preventing or mitigating the loss of vessels and cargo to concern for preventing or mitigating environmental damage and other indirect consequences—the economic basis for rendering salvage services needs to be restructured. The committee therefore recommends:
The criteria for determining compensation for salvage in the United States should be updated to reflect changes in the business structure of the salvage industry and in societal values with respect to salvage and to incorporate the criteria delineated in the Salvage Convention of 1989.
The Salvage Committee of the Maritime Law Association should promulgate an updated regime of criteria for salvage awards, reflecting current salvage conditions, to be brought to the attention of courts and arbitrators without waiting for a case to be litigated or arbitrated.
NATIONAL SALVAGE POLICY
The national salvage policy continues to be that stated in the Salvage Facilities Act of 1948: that the public interest is served by maintaining salvage capability to provide for the national defense. In contrast to the fifty-year-old statement of national policy, the committee concludes that the primary public motivation for maintaining a salvage capability has shifted from national defense to include protecting the environment and the economy from impacts of a vessel casualty and that salvage fulfills additional functions in preventing or minimizing marine pollution, providing for public safety, and minimizing the disruption of port activities. The committee therefore recommends: