Admiralty Law

Admiralty Law


Read and reply to the below discussion. Do you agree with the discussion or not? Why?

1. What are the legal criteria for salvage awards?

2. Critique the below brief of your classmate. What is it about their brief that you agree or disagree with and why?

Salvage is the act of recovering a vessel (or person, without a reward) under some level of duress. Two forms of salvage awards are offered for the successful recovery of a vessel: Pure salvage awards are determined by the court for voluntary rescue; and Contract salvage is based on the express terms of owner and salvor.[i] For an award to be issued for salvage, the courts need to determine a nexus between the item salvaged and traditional maritime activities.[ii] In pure salvage, three elements need to be met for an award to be given: 1. A marine peril. 2. Service voluntarily rendered when not required as an existing duty or from a special contract. 3. Success in whole or in part, or that the service rendered contributed to such success.[iii]


In January of 1977, the passenger vessel S.S. Monarch Star lost all, but battery back-up, power while underway off the coast of Cuba. Under the operation of Technical Marine Planning of Miami, sister-ship S.S. Monarch Sun was dispatched to assist in towing the Star further offshore to avoid the ship entering the territorial sea of Cuba (and further, potentially being detained), and to await tow from a salvage tug. The Sun was able take on all passengers and luggage from the Star; and then towed the Star approximately 13 miles further offshore. After breaking tow, the Star began to drift back towards the Cuban coast, and was only 17 miles off of their shore when taken into tow by the contracted tug Curb. The Master of the Sun (renamed S/S Volendam), Captain Markakis, brought suit in rem to receive a salvage award for services rendered.

The determination of salvage is brought in three parts for pure salvage: a marine peril must be present, it must be a voluntary act of salvage, and it must be successful. The question then stands: can a salvage claim be awarded for the captain and crew of the sister-ship dispatched by their company to render assistance to the S.S. Monarch Star.

The Court referenced Gilmore & Black, The Law of Admiralty, and examination of the Star’s situation expressly shows a status in peril as the ship was adrift (off of a hostile coast) and subject to force majure. The Court determined that a marine peril exists. However, it was argued by the Star that, the crew of the Sun acted under compulsion, rather than voluntarily, in that they were ordered by the owners to [go to the Star’s aid]… 46 USC ? 80107(b) (effective August 1, 1912) provides: "The right to remuneration for [aid] or salvage services [is not] affected by common ownership of the vessels [giving] and receiving [the aid] or salvage services."[iv] Therefore, unless a contract of salvage was specifically expressed, the unusual altering of employment, from an otherwise scheduled voyage, for the purpose of salvaging, deems reason for meritorious reward. The Court deemed the Sun actions "voluntary." There was no contention that the salvage operation was not successful.

All applications of salvage are thereby met, and the Court holds the owners of the Star liable to the captain and crew of the Sun for salvage services performed.[v]

When first reviewing this case, I was under the initial defendant’s assumption that compulsory salvage on the part of the Sun, under the common operator’s orders, would nullify any salvage agreement. However, Congress’ decision to foster salvage service under 46 USC ? 80107(b) preserves meritorious reward for rendering assistance, and thus prevents a company from using its resources for saving its assets without retribution. Therefore, I concur with the Court’s decision and reasoning on the issue of salvage under common ownership.


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