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.


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 50-year-old statement of national policy, the committee concludes that salvage fulfills additional functions—preventing or minimizing marine pollution, providing for public safety, and minimizing the disruption of port activities. The committee therefore recommends:

The Congress should update the national salvage policy to ensure that an adequate level of salvage capability is present in U.S. waters. The policy should clearly delineate the following goals: to protect national security, to minimize or prevent environmental impacts due to pollution from marine casualties, to protect public safety, and to ensure minimal economic disruption resulting from marine casualties in the nation's ports and waterways.

The updated national salvage policy should specifically address the role of government agencies and their relationship to the private sector. At the very least, the policy should codify or clarify the current roles of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy, as follows:

  • The U.S. Coast Guard should oversee or direct response to marine casualties in which there is peril to life, the environment, or other public interests.

  • The U.S. Navy should advance salvage technology and practice through technical development programs; provide technical assistance in nongovernmental marine casualties requiring salvage; maintain contractual arrangements with private contractors for salvage services in excess of the Navy's internal capability and make such services available on request; and train U.S. Navy and other personnel in salvage.

The above functions are essential to government roles to ensure that adequate salvage capability exists in the United States and that there is adequate salvage response to marine casualties. Implementing this recommendation would, in the main, provide statutory authority for current practice.

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