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HungryGuy's avatar

What are the maritime laws for salvage of abandoned, but not completely destroyed, ships at sea?

Asked by HungryGuy (15979points) January 20th, 2012

What with all the cruise ships that have sunk in the past few years (Sea Diamond, Costa Concordia, Oceanis), I have an idea for a fictional story, but I want to know if maritime law will cooperate with the plot.

Here’s the plot in summary: Cruse ship starts to sink (for reasons yet to be determined). Captain and crew abandon ship, a.la. Oceanis, leaving passengers to die. Passengers all manage to launch the lifeboats on their own and leave the ship safely. One passenger stays behind and, heroically, saves the ship (how this will be accomplished, I haven’t determined yet), restarts the engines, and then sails home with his prize.

My question is: Can this passenger claim salvage rights to the ship under these conditions? Or does it actually have to sink before it can become designated a “ship wreck” subject to salvage?

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3 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Check this article out on Wikipedia.

Excerpt:
“Salvage law has as a basis that a salvor should be rewarded for risking his life and property to rescue the property of another from peril. Salvage law is in some ways similar to the wartime law of prize, the capture, condemnation and sale of a vessel and its cargo as a spoil of war, insofar as both compensate the salvor/captors for risking life and property.[3] The two areas of law may dovetail. For instance, a vessel taken as a prize, then recaptured by friendly forces on its way to the prize adjudication, is not deemed a prize of the rescuers (title merely reverts to the original owner). But the rescuing vessel is entitled to a claim for salvage.[4] Likewise a vessel found badly damaged, abandoned and adrift after enemy fire disabled her does not become a prize of a rescuing friendly vessel, but the rescuers may claim salvage.[5]

A vessel is considered in peril if it is in danger or could become in danger. Examples of a vessel in peril are when it is aground or in danger of going aground. Prior to a salvage attempt the salvor receives permission from the owner or the master to assist the vessel. If the vessel is abandoned no permission is needed.”

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Yes, if the captian orders abandoned ship it’s open season. As far as I have read sinking isn’t necessary.

CWOTUS's avatar

This is ancient maritime law and custom. The ship doesn’t have to sink. If it’s abandoned, then it belongs to any salvor.

Read about the Mary Celeste or Hammond Innes’ The Wreck of the Mary Deare for one true account and one good fictionalized one (based on laws of the 20th century).

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