What is Marine Salvage?

What is Marine Salvage?

Marine salvage is the process of retrieving, rescuing, and repairing a ship – saving also its crew, cargo, and other properties – after a shipwreck or any other maritime accidents.

These incidents may include a vessel running aground, sinking at a dock, or having problems while on voyage. Ships abandoned at sea are also part of the scope of marine salvage.

Marine salvaging is primarily done to prevent any contaminants, mainly oil, from spilling or leaking into the sea – to protect the marine wildlife and its ecosystem.

Another important objective of salvaging is to remove any damaged or stranded vessel that could be blocking any significant channel or passage of navigation.

The process must be accomplished quickly to lessen marine pollution and to keep continuous voyages.

How are vessels salvaged?

A salvor, simply defined as a person involved in salvage of a ship, may tow, re-float, or effect repairs to a vessel.

A salvor’s duties may include assisting the ship’s clean up or prevention of oil spill, removing it from the beach, raising the vessel, or locating it and returning her to the shore.

oil rig, oil spillage and seal on beach frowning

In regular cases, a ship provides assistance to another ship that is unable to voyage efficiently due to engine issues, damages on the hull or gears, or lack of crew – but has not yet sunk.

What are the types of marine salvage?

  • Harbor Salvage

Operation encompasses sunken or stranded ships in partially smooth waters – protected bodies of water deep enough for anchorage – or port facilities where natural conditions like big waves, strong currents, or sudden weather changes are not particularly considered factors of concern.

There’s no reason to hasten this process unless a passage for navigation needs to be cleared out right away.

  • Cargo Salvage

There are times when salvaging the cargo rather than the vessel itself is more important.

Cargos onboard a ship may contain components that are hazardous to the marine environment. This is why sometimes it is of utmost priority to remove any toxic element from the waters.

Expensive cargos are also salvaged as soon as possible to prevent irreparable damages from happening to the shipment.

  • Equipment Salvage

Large machinery components – driving systems, turbines, and engines – are salvaged if they survived seawater intrusion, and remain intact, by disassembling, dissecting, or destructing the hull.

  • Afloat Salvage

A vessel that is damaged but still floats on the water only requires afloat salvaging. This involves damage control and primary repairs like structural bracing, stabilizing by rebalancing ballast tanks and shifting cargo, and hull welding.

  • Clearance Salvage

Catastrophic events like those caused by nature or man can cause heavy damage along harbors and waterways essential to passages or voyages.

When this happens, a number of shipwrecks are cleared out coordinately to remove obstructions in navigation. Parts of these vessels or debris are also scavenged sometimes to hasten the process.

  • Shipwreck Salvage

Its main objective is to get rid of the waters of any unsightly or hazardous material through the cheapest and most practical way possible. A usual practice is to cut the hull into small details, refloat these after, and scuttle the parts in deeper waters.

Compared to the other salvaging types, this one is a low priority task.

  • Offshore Salvage

Sunken or stranded ships in open waters require this operation. Unlike the other types mentioned above, open waters pose certain natural threats like unexpected weather changes, strong currents, and tidal waves that could hinder the progress of the operation.

This is the reason why some procedures may take days, or even months, to complete.

Compensation for marine salvaging

Even though all ships have an international duty to respond to calls of distress from any vessel in need and give assistance as soon as possible to save the lives onboard, it is not an imperative to try to save the ship.

aerail view of a tanker that has run aground

As accepting the offer of salvage assistance is optional, a contract is automatically created for any accepted assistance to grant the successful salvor the right to a reward under the 1989 Convention.

There are various legal provisions about the compensation for marine salvaging -- including all of them here might dry your eyes out reading everything – but conventions and modifications were done to make sure that salvors receive the reward they deserve for their rendered service.

Their willingness to brave the possible dangers they may encounter at sea performing their tasks, preventing any damage from happening in the waters, and consequently saving the marine ecosystem makes them certainly entitled to be rewarded.

What skills are needed to work in marine salvaging?

The skills needed to be a salvor are considerably common among seafarers, so no need to doubt yourself and wonder about any special skill that might be required.

Here are the top seven:

  1. Seamanship
  2. Boat handling
  3. Boat patching
  4. Mechanical skills
  5. Swimming
  6. Diving
  7. Rigging (whenever required)

So if you think you have these and if you're interested to become a salvor, continue improving your practice and you'll surely succeed in your field!

How to join a marine salvage company?

Marine salvage is significant as a profession, considering its impact to the marine environment and to continual passages.

Its development is a must as some marine accidents that need salvaging require immediate attention.

It is important that there are salvors ready to take action.

Some seafarers take this profession as a result of the vast amount of compensation that they may acquire for rescuing or recovering a vessel, or its cargo at times.

If you are thinking that this job fits you well, given the skills and the overview we've mentioned above, you can go ahead and pursue a license in marine salvage and discover more about this unique profession.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Jobs at Sea

In case being a salvor doesn't really pique your interest but you're still searching for other seafarer jobs, we can definitely help you with that, too!

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