CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Effective, time-critical salvage provides an important safeguard against environmental damage and commercial loss. It can prevent breakdowns, navigation errors, and other vessel mishaps from developing into more serious incidents, which could result in major pollution or channel and port closures. The salvage industry continues to face immense economic pressures. In general, the incidence of maritime casualties, and thus the need for salvage services, has declined by one-third since 1973. These trends are favorable for safety and environmental protection, but they have a negative effect on business conditions in the marine salvage industry.
Additionally, the nature of salvage has changed in the last decade. At least four major trends have been observed:
The motivation for maintaining a salvage capability has shifted from a private concern protecting the vessel and its cargo to a more public or societal interest in protecting the environment and economy from impacts of a vessel casualty.
The traditional dedicated salvage company, with fully integrated capabilities, has had to supplement its income by utilizing its salvage assets and 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 of the salvor or the increased financial risks.
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 pollution. Instead, the salvor's role is to assist and provide direction to a Unified Command System (UCS) involving the federal government, state government(s), and the responsible party (vessel or cargo owner or designee).
As a result of these trends, the U.S. salvage capability today 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 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 capability.
NATIONAL SALVAGE POSTURE
Despite the good response record of salvors in recent years, the committee perceives possible deficiencies in U.S. salvage capabilities. 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 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.
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.
SALVAGE READINESS OF VESSEL AND CREW
The voluntary nature of compliance with ''salvage-friendly'' vessel designs, such as that proposed by IMO Resolution A.535(13), has not had the expected result of widespread adoption of such features and the potential increase in the ability to save vessels in distress. The committee therefore recommends:
The Coast Guard should urge the International Maritime Organization to proceed with the revision of Resolution A.535(13) "Emergency Towing Requirement for Tankers" as expeditiously as possible and to promulgate the revised resolution in the form of a regulation requiring compliance by new and existing vessels. The Coast Guard should request that the IMO consider requiring emergency towing arrangements on vessels other than tankers.
In addition, the Coast Guard should urge vessel owners to incorporate other "salvage-friendly" modifications, such as cargo piping system modifications, and institute formal salvage training for vessel crews.
The committee concludes that, with few opportunities to practice the salvage profession, the next generation of salvors is not being trained or attracted to the industry. The committee therefore recommends:
The U.S. Navy training facilities at Panama City, Florida, should be made available to selected industry and/or federal and state agency personnel sponsored by professional salvage companies and the respective agencies. Such training could be offered on a total reimbursement basis or financed by the Salvage Facilities Act.
The salvage and marine transportation industries should establish salvage training at a maritime institution on a cooperative basis (as was done with maritime firefighting schools). In addition, they should cooperatively develop a career track program within and across their respective industries to attract individuals to the salvage industry.
The committee concludes that marine firefighting experience in port areas is lacking. There are significant differences in marine firefighting capabilities among port areas. Of particular concern is the interface between local fire departments and the marine transportation system. The committee further concludes that the location of prepositioned marine firefighting systems relative to vessel traffic patterns is a concern in some geographic areas. Of special concern are ports and areas with high passenger vessel concentrations. The committee therefore recommends:
The area planning process within the National Contingency Plan should include a review of local and area firefighting and salvage readiness and capabilities.
RESPONSE TO HAZARDOUS CARGO
The committee concludes that capability for responding to casualties involving hazardous cargo is limited. The committee therefore recommends:
The Coast Guard or another government agency should undertake a study on response to marine casualties involving hazardous cargo and the role of the salvor in the response.
The committee concludes that ambiguities in federal and state oil pollution laws have created uncertainty concerning liability for acts of jettison. The committee therefore recommends:
The National Contingency Plan should be modified to incorporate criteria that would authorize intentional jettison when necessary. Modifications should also clarify the Federal On-scene Coordinator's ability to authorize incidental discharges resulting from ongoing cleanup operations, such as decanting from skimmers and pumping of engine rooms, through the daily work plans approved by the Unified Command System where appropriate.1
The committee concludes that, in the absence of predesignated safe havens, the risk is increased of marine casualties having catastrophic outcomes with environmental consequences. The committee therefore recommends:
The Coast Guard should promulgate the process by which a "safe haven" is identified. To the extent possible, area plans should evaluate candidate sites for potential safe haven areas.
The jettison issue was addressed by the committee in a separate report (NRC, 1994), which appears, with more specific recommendations, in Appendix B.