Collision includes physical contact between two ships or a ship and other structures such as an offshore drilling platform, icebergs or even a port. Collision results in an accident and causes damage to the ships and/or structures involved. A collision usually occurs because of inadequate or unsatisfactory radar watch. Incidents of navigation, on the other hand, include mishaps that are a result of the action of the elements rather than a failure to exercise good handling, working, or navigation of a ship. These are such misadventures which could not have been prevented by using even nautical caution or expertise. The result of both collisions and incidents of navigation are disastrous and cannot be measured in fair and accurate monetary terms.
Results of accidents at sea
In instances of collisions or incidents of navigation of a ship, one has to face far-reaching repercussions. Firstly, the loss of life is always an irreversible loss that can never be compensated for, and the risk of death in such cases is quite high. Secondly, the environmental effect is severe, particularly if any of the vessels involved in the accident are carrying chemicals or other hazardous materials that might endanger marine life. The response to accidents at sea must be quick and with a view to minimise the impact on life and environment.
The process of saving a ship, its cargo, or other property from danger is known as salvage. Rescue towing, firefighting, patching or mending a ship, refloating a sunken or grounded vessel, relocating a damaged vessel to open navigation channels, and lifting sunken ships or their cargo are all examples of salvage. The majority of salvage operations are outsourced to professional salvors. The outsourcers/contractual agents usually don’t expect any payment until the salvage operation is at least partially successful. If salvage is not performed under a contract, then the salvor must act voluntarily. If the owner or the owner’s agent is still on the ship, they can refuse offers of assistance from salvors. A vessel found entirely deserted or abandoned without hope of recovery is considered derelict and is fair game for anyone who comes across it.
Rewards for Salvage
In order to appreciate the skill and efforts of the salvors involved in preventing or minimizing damage to the environment and for rescuing a ship a treaty was signed, entitling salvors to a “special compensation””. The compensation of salvors typically consists of the salvor’s expenses plus up to 30% of expenses if environmental damage has been minimized or is prevented. The salvor’s expenses are defined as “out-of-pocket expenses reasonably incurred by the salvor in the salvage operation and a fair rate for equipment and personnel actually and reasonably used.” It must be remembered that salvors usually render services to a ship or her owner, without intending to do so gratuitously. They are entitled to be rewarded for their services, whether or not there is a contract that provides for compensation.
If a salvor is not paid for his services, he is entitled to arrest the rescued ship or her sister-ship in any maritime jurisdiction across the world. Salvors also are usually entitled to exercise a lien over the rescued ship. To have a vessel arrested means to apply to a court vested with admiralty jurisdiction to attach the ship and ensure that she does not sail out of the jurisdiction of that court. After a ship is arrested, the owner of the ship or any person in her must put up security to have her released.
Instances of ship accident and salvage
The removal of the cruise ship Costa Concordia from the Mediterranean Sea was one of the biggest, historic, and most expensive salvages. A total of 32 people were killed in that accident. The incident occurred when the captain made a mistake and sailed the ship dangerously close to the land, after which she ran aground, hitting rocks off the shore of an Italian island, and halting half submerged. There were thousands of people risking their lives to save the ship, diving in, below, and around the perilously overturned vessel. One of them even died during the job. In another incident, no one particularly was wounded, but the English Channel was contaminated due to the oil spill made by the salvors themselves. One of the boats of one of the salvage firms crashed with the wreck and knocked out a safety valve, causing a large oil flow. The spill wreaked havoc on the surrounding ecology, which even led to killing thousands of birds.