Please select your home edition
Edition
Mariners Museum 728x90

Is it 'towing' or 'salvage'? The USA distinction

by D. Scott Croft/Sail-World Cruising 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
Broken gear, engine problems or other mishaps can force you to call a towboat - but is it 'towing' or 'salvage'? 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.
KZRaceFurlersZhik AkzoNobelb 660x82Mariners Museum 660x82

Related Articles

Keep the water out with Zhik’s new Superthermal Hydrobase
The lower arm and leg of the new Superthermal Hydrobase is made from a water-repellent, stretch woven fabric We’ve all done it - and fished a rope out of the water, pushed the rudder down or stepped down the slipway one foot too far and gained that unwanted wet sleeve or leg.
Posted on 9 Aug
North Sails releases new 3Di Headsail for the J/105 Class
North Sails released its latest headsail design for competitive J/105 class. The Li-5 3Di jib replaces the L-4 3DL jib North Sails released its latest headsail design for the competitive J/105 class. The Li-5 3Di jib replaces the L-4 3DL jib bringing the ultimate consistency and performance of North’s exclusive 3Di technology to this light-air optimized headsail. The Li-5 is the perfect complement for the Mi-4 3Di jib which is an all-purpose sail.
Posted on 4 Aug
Hands up - Who is wearing the Zhik Boot 460 at the Moth Worlds?
The Zhik Boot 460 are known as the active dinghy sailors ‘best friend’. The Zhik Boot 460 are known as the active dinghy sailors ‘best friend’. Last week Peter Burling rang the Zhik product development team in Sydney, for assistance to get hold of a pair of the Boot 460s in time for the Moth Worlds in Lake Garda. And looking around the fleet it seems he’s not alone, and the 230 strong fleet of Moth sailors are voting with their feet too.
Posted on 29 Jul
Yacht Racing Forum extends partnership with Zhik for two more years
Top sailors choose Zhik gear to win world championships, and demand it for their OIympic campaigns. The company sells its products into an international network covering more than 40 countries, in Europe, the Americas and the Asia Pacific.
Posted on 25 Jul
Moth Worlds – Moth speed uncovered
C-Tech’s Tim Willetts takes time to reflect on changes in Moth class rig design and development over the past six years With the 2017 Moth world championship starting Tuesday, C-Tech’s Tim Willetts takes time to reflect on changes in Moth class rig design and development over the past six years. A lot has happened behind the scenes that is giving the top sailors the edge by staying ahead.
Posted on 25 Jul
Int Moth Worlds - Zhik returns to its spiritual home at 2017 Worlds
Zhik is returning to its roots as the official clothing sponsor of the 2017 McDougall McConaghy Moth World Championships Zhik, the innovative sailing apparel specialist, is returning to its roots as the official clothing sponsor of the 2017 McDougall McConaghy Moth World Championships. And, ten years on, the Moths are returning to their spiritual home on Lake Garda. Zhik and the International Moth class are virtually synonymous with each other.
Posted on 20 Jul
World Sailing confirms strong presence at Yacht Racing Forum 2017
The tenth edition of the Yacht Racing Forum, in Aarhus, Denmark will reassemble the sport’s key personalities and actors The tenth edition of the Yacht Racing Forum, in Aarhus, Denmark (November 27-28) will once again reassemble the sport’s key personalities and actors, including a strong delegation of World Sailing representatives.
Posted on 19 Jul
Watch Change in Crosshaven - UK Sailmakers under new command
'Our strength has always been service, quality and people. Right now, they are Graham, Claire and Barry.' The famous Crosshaven loft that is part of the UK Sailmakers organisation will shortly have a new crew on deck. Barry Hayes, Claire Morgan and Graham Curran are taking over from Des McWilliam who is stepping down after 39 years in the business and 25 years at the helm of McWilliam Sailmakers.
Posted on 3 Jul
When the going gets hot Zhik has the answers on what to wear afloat
Whilst many of us Brits are looking in the sailing bag wondering what on earth to wear afloat in this heatwave Whilst many of us Brits are looking in the sailing bag wondering what on earth to wear afloat in this heatwave, Zhik the Australian sailing apparel innovators are set up for dealing with extreme heat, moisture management and sun protection.
Posted on 22 Jun
AkzoNobel named as official supplier to the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard
The competing boats– including team AkzoNobel’s brand new Volvo Ocean 65– have already been coated with Awlgrip products AkzoNobel will be the official coatings supplier to the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard in 2017-18, after signing a deal to ensure that the fleet of Volvo Ocean 65 racing yachts will be coated with the company’s International and Awlgrip range of products
Posted on 29 May