Salvage Attorney FloridaFlorida Marine Salvors

Many people are willing to say what they think the policy is, but what is the actual policy of the U.S. Coast Guard when it comes to maritime salvage of property? News of a recent airlift rescue of a boater many miles offshore of Tampa Bay, Florida reminds us of the U.S. Coast Guard’s involvement in the rescue of people, but what about property? Here is what you need to know, straight from a marine salvage attorney.

U.S. Coast Guard and Maritime Salvage: Where It Starts and Ends

Most maritime salvors are aware the USCG is not in the business of rescuing property. The USCG’s own literature shows they do not want to compete with private salvors. The USCG’s January 2013 Addendum to the U.S. National Search and Rescue Supplement to the IAMSAR (i.e., Rescue Manual) is instructive regarding the USCG’s policy on Search and Rescue (“SAR”).

The Rescue Manual addendum states the principles of USCG Rescue:

  1. “The primary purposes of the operation is retrieving persons in distress and delivering them to a place of safety.
  2. Rescue missions may also be performed for the purpose of preventing or mitigating property loss of damage.
  3. Missions shall not normally be performed for the purpose of salvage or recovery of property when those actions are not essential to the saving of life.
  4. Secondary consequences of a rescue operation may be prevention of environmental damage or removal of hazards to navigation, but these are considered part of the rescue operation’s objectives.”

What This Means for Marine Salvors

As a Florida marine salvage attorney, a few things stick out here. Number 3 is a direct quote from the USCG relating to search and rescue. This is great for professional salvors because the USCG is, by their policy, not trying to compete with private salvors to save property. Numbers 2 and 4 use the word “may” in the description — in maritime law, the word “may” is important because it means that the USCG does not have to do the thing. Therefore, while the USCG may prevent loss of property and may prevent pollution, they are not necessarily required to do so in search and rescue.

What does this matter to a maritime salvor? It means when you have a maritime salvage and are dealing with a reluctant adjuster, you can advise the adjuster that the USCG is not in the business of saving property and preventing pollution. That is not just this Florida marine salvage attorney talking — this is the actual written policy of the U.S. Coast Guard. If the adjuster pretends like the vessel owner had several other salvaging options, you can confidently state that the U.S. Coast Guard was not likely to be one of them. Yes, the U.S. Coast Guard will save the at-risk passengers, but likely not the imperiled vessel. Many salvors know that the USCG is likely to issue a warning to boaters about a vessel posing a hazard to navigation but is unlikely to assist in saving it.

Private Marine Salvage Companies and the USCG

Your relationship with the USCG matters in maritime salvage cases where the USCG has been called or in which the USCG will be monitoring the situation. The USCG has announced that, in search and rescue situations, state and local organizations and even Good Samaritans are acceptable sources of assistance. However, if their expertise is unknown, then the USCG more closely monitors the aid provided.

Again, this is not just this Florida marine salvage attorney talking — this is the written policy of the USCG. The good news for professional salvors is the USCG is likelier to trust that you know what you are doing. Therefore, it is important to maintain a good rapport with your local USCG, and other governmental agencies, because they are paying attention to you and your capabilities. This is also a selling point for you with the insurers; you can say, “We have the situation — or brought the situation — under control. The agency knows us. The agency knows we know what we are doing. And that means we are saving the owner and insurer money.”

The experience of this Florida marine salvage attorney is that when it comes time to assess how much your salvaging efforts are worth, the fact that you know the local USCG (or FWC or Sheriff’s Department) and that the agency trusts your company will help you with the factors applied to calculate your award.

Contact Marine Salvage Attorney Frank D. Butler

As a marine salvage attorney working throughout Florida, I talk with marine salvors from all over. There is no doubt that the job of a maritime salvor is at times a dangerous one. There is also no doubt that maritime salvors help save lives and help save property throughout Florida. Your local USCG may be counting on you to be capable and ready to assist in your area.

If you need a marine salvage attorney in the State of Florida, contact Florida-based lawyer Frank D. Butler by calling 888-BOAT-LAW today.

***None of the foregoing is legal advice and is not meant to give legal advice. Each case is different. This is why it is important to contact us on the specific facts of your case. What you say in making the claim can greatly affect your outcome.