Please select your home edition
Edition
Protector 728x90

A savvy boater understands 'towing' and 'salvage' differences

by D. Scott Croft on 27 Feb 2013
Is this a towing job or a salvage job? Boats that are hard aground, like this ketch, are most likely to be declared salvage, which is not typically covered by a towing service plan, says BoatUS. BoatUS Press Room
On-the-water breakdowns, running aground or other mishaps can ruin a day of boating or fishing enjoyment. But when the towboat arrives on the scene, do you know if the service is a 'tow' or a 'salvage' job? If you’re ever in doubt, the safest bet is to ask the towboat crew. That’s because there could be a big difference in the cost of each service, and it also determines who pays the bill, says Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS).

While there is sometimes a fine line between the towing and salvage, there are a few clear indicators that point to each. 'Salvage requires the existence of ‘peril’ to the distressed vessel or persons aboard, or peril to the rescue boat and its crew, or the marine environment,' said Vice President of BoatUS Towing Services Adam Wheeler.

Historically and legally, salvage is any voluntary and successful rescue of a boat, its cargo, and/or passengers from peril at sea. Today that definition includes the successful avoidance of damage to a legally protected marine environment.

Vessels hard aground, on rocks, taking on water or sunk are salvage, as are collisions, fires, breakaways or other types of immediate danger. Salvage also comes into play when specialized equipment such as pumps, air bags, or divers are called for - even if the boat is at the dock.

All TowBoatUS and Vessel Assist companies are committed to informing the owner of a boat - before beginning any work - if the procedure will be declared salvage. If the owner is not on board or the conditions are so perilous and the rescue of the boat requires immediate action, they’ll be notified as soon as possible after saving the boat.

'On the other hand, when there is very little or no peril or damage to the vessel - you have a towing situation,' said Wheeler. 'A typical example is when you run out of gas or have a dead battery, and have subsequently dropped anchor to await assistance. Waters are calm, you’re no threat to navigation, your crew and boat are fine and there’s no peril to those on the response boat.' Of the 65,000 requests for assistance made last year by boaters to BoatUS 24-hour Dispatch Centers, 98% were for routine towing services.

When it comes to soft ungroundings, BoatUS members enjoy a special agreement with the TowBoatUS and Vessel Assist on-the-water towing fleets which ensures that if there is little peril and no damage to the BoatUS member’s disabled boat, and only one towboat is needed to remove the softly grounded vessel from a shoal, it’s a simple towing job. Other commercial towing companies may or may not honor this agreement.

Nationwide, towing and soft ungrounding costs average about $600 and $800, respectively. These are either paid by an annual towing service plan or out-of-pocket by the boater.

Salvage cases are usually covered by insurance - or out-of-pocket if self-insured - and are much more expensive than a tow. Salvage continues to be the way to award a rescuer who maintains a 24-hour state of readiness to risk life, limb and vessel for others, and often results in a charge based on the length of the vessel saved or a request for a percentage of the boat's post-casualty value. While it’s a reward for extraordinary service, the dollar amount awarded factors in the degree of peril as well as the risk to the salvor and their crew.

'There are significant expenses in operating and maintaining a professional towing operation,' says Wheeler, 'such as Captain’s and staff salaries, insurance, equipment maintenance and increasing fuel costs, not to mention capital expenses such as towboats and other specialized recovery equipment - and it all has to be ready to go at a moment’s notice,' he added.

Time and circumstances permitting, Wheeler suggests that if it’s a salvage job, boaters should try to call their insurance company so they may attempt to negotiate with the salvor before the operation gets underway. If circumstances don’t allow this, ask the salvor for a fixed price and try to get it in writing.

Wheeler also says that boaters should review their boat’s insurance policy to ensure it fully covers salvage. Some policies have limits, high deductibles, or may not include environmental damage - all of which would have to be paid out of pocket.

BoatUS also suggests having a copy of the BoatUS Open Form Yacht Salvage Contract aboard at all times, which assures that any salvage claim will go to local binding arbitration if negotiations between your insurance company and salvor fails. Designed to be more understandable, relevant to US laws and potentially money saving for all parties, the Open Form Contract is available free of charge at BoatUS.com/salvage or by calling 800-937-1937.

For more information on BoatUS towing plans, go to BoatUS.com/towing or call 1-800-888-4869.

Four Salvage Tips:

• Protect yourself by having both a towing service plan for basic towing assistance needs and an insurance policy that fully covers the costs of salvage.
• If you do have an incident, ask questions first, not later, to confirm whether the job is towing or salvage.
• Have your insurance claims department phone number aboard. If it’s salvage, you’ll want to try to contact them to help negotiate a fixed price.
• When all else fails, have a copy of BoatUS Open Form Yacht Salvage Contract aboard. You can get one for free at BoatUS.com/salvage.
RS Sailing 660x82Barz Optics - Melanin LensesZhik AkzoNobelb 660x82

Related Articles

World Sailing and Volvo join forces for the future of sailing
The partnership is a signal of the Volvo Ocean Race's commitment to the sport and future of offshore sailing. As part of an ambitious plan, World Sailing will partner with the Volvo Ocean Race, owned by Volvo Group and Volvo Car Group, to develop the next generation of offshore sailors.
Posted on 18 May
TIMEZERO by MaxSea extends navigation partnership with Clipper Race
TIMEZERO by MaxSea, has been named as the Official Navigation Software Supplier for Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. Returning for its second race partnership, TIMEZERO by MaxSea, has been named as the Official Navigation Software Supplier for the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race.
Posted on 18 May
North Technology buys Hall Spars from receivership
North Technology Group (NTG) has announced the acquisition of the Hall Spars business out of receivership. North Technology Group (NTG) has announced the acquisition of the Hall Spars business out of receivership. The Hall Spars US parent company announced in early 2017 that it would be closing the doors due to well publicized financial challenges. The acquisition covers Auckland and Brekens and Hall Spars will re-establish in Rhode Island
Posted on 9 May
SAP brings cutting-edge solutions to World Sailing
World Sailing announces SAP, a market leader in enterprise application software, as its Official Technology Partner Over the next four years, SAP will bring its cutting-edge, innovative solutions to World Sailing's World Cup Series of events. SAP will transform the events by improving performance on the water, reinventing the fan experience on the shoreline and at home, simplifying operations for sailors and coaches and supplying media with information and insights to deliver a more informed commentary.
Posted on 2 May
New addition to North Sail for Volvo Ocean 65 racing machines
Their sails have powered eight out of nine Volvo Ocean Race winners since 1989-90, with Steinlager 2. Instead of assembling cloth panels into a particular sail shape, the Volvo Ocean Race sails are composites. This means that 3Di material 'tapes' are laid in a specific arrangement, offering stable structure to the sail where it is needed most.
Posted on 24 Apr
Crewsaver appointed as Official Safety Provider to 35th America’s Cup
Crewsaver has announced today that it has been selected to be the Official Safety Provider to the 35th America’s Cup Crewsaver has announced today, 21st April 2017, that it has been selected to be the Official Safety Provider to the 35th America’s Cup, which will take place in Bermuda from 26th May to 27th June 2017.
Posted on 22 Apr
Marine Resources expands Boatbuilding Team with two key appointments
Marine Resources have recently expanded their in-house boatbuilding team, with the addition of two new key members. Leading leisure marine industry and luxury yacht recruitment specialists Marine Resources have recently expanded their in-house boatbuilding team, with the addition of two new key members.
Posted on 16 Mar
Southern Spars takes to the air with new composite engineering project
One of the challenges for companies who have had their roots in the marine industry is diversification beyond that field One of the challenges for companies who have had their roots in the marine industry is diversification beyond that field. Moving into the composites engineering for non-marine projects is becoming a more common occurrence as clients realise the opportunities from utilising the expertise of composite boat and spar builders.
Posted on 8 Mar
New Xperformance - Optimising the cruiser/racer range from X-Yachts
X-Yachts have built a wide range of 'Cruiser/Racers' as well as dedicated racing yachts which have won many Intl titles Since the company was founded back in 1979, X-Yachts have built a wide range of 'Cruiser/Racers' as well as dedicated racing yachts which have won many famous International titles, and of course One Design Class yachts such as X-79 and X-99
Posted on 14 Feb
World Sailing unites Kiteboarding governing bodies
World Sailing has today signed a landmark agreement with the IKA and the GKA to unite the kiteboarding community World Sailing has today signed a landmark agreement with the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) and the Global Kitesports Association (GKA) to unite the kiteboarding community and provide clarity of kiteboarding's governance structure.
Posted on 13 Feb