Oil Spill Response, Salvage & Wreck Removal

We specialize in . . .

IMG has a robust salvage law practice, with experience touching all aspects of oil spill response, pollution, towage, wreck removal and ship recycling issues. IMG not only helps owners respond to oil spills and salvage operations, but we also work with national and international authorities while we represent clients’ interests in formal inquiries and investigations.

Our experience in contentious cross-border litigation and arbitration gives us the insight to advise our clients through the complex issues that can accompany large and sophisticated salvage disputes and transactions.

IMG frequently acts for salvors, OSRO's, Vessel Owners, and Charterers during and in the aftermath of shipping casualties and ensuing operations. In salvage matters that turn contentious, we represent clients in international arbitrations around the world, under many different laws, as well as in litigation before U.S. courts at all levels.  We also we work alongside all the different parties that may be involved in salvage operations, including insurers, governments, and other local interests. IMG not only helps Vessel Owners and Charterers respond to oil spills, wreck removals, and salvage operations, but we also can advise clients on how best to tender their claims, claims calculation, and claims budgeting, and regularly advise clients on the legal implications of accidental bunker spills and contamination, environmental damage, wreck removal, environmental damage, and ship recycling.

For non-contentious matters, IMG draws upon a wealth of transactional experience when advising clients on the legal nuances of their contracts during a spill response or salvage operation. Our attorneys have experience in negotiating and drafting charter parties and salvage agreements using all of the major industry form contracts, including Lloyd’s Open Form, SCOPIC, and other general commercial agreements.  In addition, we have experience negotiating and preparing customized charter parties and salvage contracts when the industry standard cannot be adapted to meet the needs of a particular vessel owner, charterer, or salvage operation.  

  

IsaakHurst

R. Isaak Hurst, Esq.

Founder and Principal Attorney

  • 24/7 Emergency Response
  • Oil Spill Response, Wreck Removal and Salvage Claims
  • Bareboat, Voyage and Time Charter Guidance
  • Arbitration and Litigation

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How We Can Help

SMFF Regulations and Vessel Response Plans

Owners and operators of tankships carrying petroleum oils calling in the United States waters are required by law to have pre-casualty Vessel Response Plans.  The Plans require vessel Owners to identify and contract with a Salvage & Marine Firefighting (SMFF) service provider who can respond within specific time requirements. Our attorneys frequently advise Vessel Owners about their VRP obligations and offer guidance on salvage planning, emergency towing, indemnity provisions, and environmental liability.

Oil spill response - International Maritime Group
Vessel arrest

Charter Agreements

Charter agreements have always been an important strategic option for those in the salvage industry, but these contracts are not without risk.  Our clients come to us to understand their legal responsibilities under their charters and rely on us execute their most complex charter party transactions.  With a client base that spans owners, charterers, OSROs, financial institutions, governments, and insurers, we can offer our clients a unique insight into their most complex transactions and the shifting regulatory and commercial landscape.

Limitation of Liability Actions

The Limitation of Liability Act permits an owner of a vessel to limit its liability for damages arising from an accident involving the vessel. 46 U.S.C. § 30505. The Limitation of Liability Act, however, does not define who or what a vessel “owner” technically is.  This ambiguity has resulted in a fair amount of litigation between charterers, partial owners, sellers of vessels, shareholders, and vessel managers about their ability file a limitation of liability action. Our attorneys frequently advise Vessel Owners about their rights to under the Limitation of Liability Act and offer guidance on the exceptions that prevent an owner from limiting its liability. 

Salvage law in Alaska
Wreck removal - International Maritime Group

Wreck Removal

Generally speaking, if a vessel sinks in navigable waters, its owners, charterers, or operators have a duty to remove that vessel and/or to reimburse the United States if the United States removes it, irrespective of whether the sinking was accidental or negligent. Moreover, the vessel operator whose negligence contributed to the sinking may be liable for extraordinary expenses of navigating other vessels around a wreck prior to removal.  Due to these serious legal penalties, we frequently advise vessel owners in the aftermath of a sinking and provide legal guidance on the ensuing operations to help with environmental and pollution concerns, insurance claims, third party liability, and Coast Guard investigations.

IMG is a Proud Member and Supporter of the American Salvage Association

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Frequently Asked Questions

Maybe.  In order to have a valid salvage claim three elements are necessary and must be present in every salvage operation. They are: (a) the existence of a marine peril; (b) the salvor provides a service voluntarily, which means they have no existing duty or a special contract; and (c) the salvor's service is a success in whole or in part. 

One of the most common forms of salvage service is that of the aiding vessel towing the imperiled, endangered or distressed ship to a place of safety. The form, however, which the particular service takes is not the paramount consideration to qualify as an act of salvage. With regard to the kind of services rendered, it has been stated in The Blackwall that: “Useful services of any kind rendered to a vessel or her cargo, exposed to any impending danger and imminent peril of loss or damage, may entitle those who render such services to salvage reward.” 77 U.S. (10 Wall.) 1, 19 L. Ed. 870 (1869).

“Pure salvage” is where voluntary service (without a pre-existing contractual or legal duty owned the property owner) is rendered without prior agreement regarding compensation. Courts will fix a reasonable award. In contrast, “Contract Salvage” sets the amount and terms of compensation (e.g., “no-cure-no-pay”, fixed fees, hourly rates, agreed incentives) by prior agreement between the parties. The existence of a contract that provides for salvage precludes an award for “pure salvage.”

No precise formula has been or can be described for calculating salvage awards, but U.S. Courts in admiralty usually consider the following circumstances as the main ingredients in determining the amount of the award to be decreed for salvage service: (1) The labor expended by the salvors rendering the salvage service. (2) The promptitude, skill and energy displayed in rendering the service and saving the property. (3) The value of the property employed by the salvors rendering the service, and the danger to which such property was exposed. (4) The risk incurred by the salvors in securing the property from the impending peril. (5) The value of the property saved. (6) The degree of danger from which the property was rescued.

Maybe.  The crew members of salving vessels are not bound by agreements for salvage entered into by their employers, and have separate  causes of action for their salvage services. An agreement between the owners of the salved and salving vessels, binding though it may be between them, does not by itself affect the independent right of the salving crew to claim an award from the salved vessel.

There is a marked and clear distinction between a towage and a salvage service. When a tug is called or taken by a sound vessel as a mere means of saving time, or from considerations of convenience, the service is classed as towage; but if the vessel is disabled, and in need of assistance, it is a salvage service. The existence of a maritime peril distinguishes a salvage contract from one for towage. Such a peril exists when a vessel is exposed to any actual or apprehended danger which might result in her destruction. In the end, whether a particular service is one of salvage or of towage is a question of fact.

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