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A Reassessment of the Marine Salvage Posture of the United States
The national salvage policy should clearly state that government assets will be used only when commercial assets are not available.
The 1982 National Research Council study on salvage recommended that the salvage issue be revisited in 10 years. This study coincides with that time frame and finds significant changes requiring action that justify the 1982 recommendation. The committee therefore recommends that the national salvage posture be assessed again ten years hence.
SALVAGE ASSETS AND SERVICES
The committee deems it to be in the national interest to ensure that the U.S. salvage capability remain (at a minimum) at its current level. However, the committee's analysis of marine risks, casualty rates, and salvage business conditions supports the conclusion that the current level of capability cannot be sustained, nor identified gaps filled, without attention to acquiring, maintaining, sustaining, and positioning salvage assets, and training and retaining salvage personnel. Furthermore, the committee concludes that these measures require the direct assistance of both the marine transportation industry and government. The committee therefore recommends:
The U.S. Coast Guard, in consultation with the U.S. Navy Supervisor of Salvage, should develop and promulgate a list of active salvors in accordance with the general criteria proposed by the committee. The list could be used to prequalify salvage companies for inclusion in vessel owners' contingency plans for casualty response and may include salvors that specialize in specific aspects of salvage. As a matter of corporate policy, companies needing salvage services should endeavor to contract for salvage services with professional salvage companies.
As new offshore tugs and escort vessels are built, designers and owners should be encouraged to add features to expand the response capability of those vessels to include some aspects of salvage. At a minimum, firefighting capability should be installed, as well as basic salvage equipment lockers.
Owners of all commercial vessels should be required to demonstrate that they have considered and are prepared to address, by contract or other approved means, key aspects of salvage capability as it relates to the safe conduct of their vessels in U.S. waters. (At present, this requirement applies only to vessels carrying petroleum as cargo.)
The committee concludes that geographic gaps may exist in the availability of adequate towing vessels for control and management of stricken ships, particularly in the Florida Straits and in areas of the West Coast. In light of physical and economic limitations to providing dedicated rescue towing salvage vessels, the committee recommends:
The U.S. Coast Guard should expeditiously complete studies mandated by OPA 90 on vessel-routing schemes and exclusionary zones and vigorously pursue instituting, as appropriate, the conclusions arising from those studies in both national and international forums.