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Certainly a lot of gray area!
The concept of marine salvage has been recognized by law since the times of the Byzantine Empire, and in modern times, the Salvage Convention of 1910 was adopted by an international panel and ratified in 1913 by the United States. To supplement the convention and address new circumstances, in 1912, the U.S. formulated a Salvage Act.
The person who saves property at sea is entitled to a reward is generously computed in light of the fundamental public policy involved. Public policy which has been formulated to encourage mariners to provide prompt service in case of emergencies and also to award compensation much greater than the value of the actual labour involved.
Formal requisites of an act of salvage:
1) serious peril from which the vessel or property could not have been rescued without the salvor's assistance
2) voluntary act of the salvor with no legal or official duty rendering assistance
3) a successful act in saving a part of or all of the property at risk
On abandonment of the property, anyone may become a salvor and if the owner later wants to reclaim his property, he would take it, subjected to a lien for the salvage claim. Typical acts of salvage involve the rescue and tow of a vessel at turbulent seas, but the ranges of situations which can constitute salvage are quite broad.
Examples of salvage are like escorting a distressed ship to a position where aid can be rendered, giving information on how to avoid an obstruction such as an ice floe or carrying a message which results in provision of emergency assistance. For properties to become subject to salvage claim it must be on the waters or on a beach or reef.
A person who is under a duty to provide assistance cannot act as salvor. Crew members or passengers, public employees like firemen or even licensed pilots are not entitled to an award for saving property.
The main ingredients in determining the amount of the award to be decreed for a salvage service are the labour expended by the salvor, his promptness, skill, and energy, the value of the property saved, the degree of danger and risks incurred by the salvors.
The items which are taken into account in assessing the value of the property are the ship, freight and cargo. The salvage award will never be greater than the value of the salved property but always be substantially lower, except in the case of abandoned or derelict property.
Salvage awards are for salvage of property and not life, so it does not provide any awards for the pure salvage of life unaccompanied by property salvage. Anyhow the trials of the court will also take into account the moral as well as economic issues.
1971 23' Oday Pop Top
You can't steer a boat that isn't moving? Just like a life - P. Lutus