No Cure, No Pay
November 23, 2014 12:20 PM   Subscribe

Marine salvage master Captain Nick Sloane is the man to call when your cruise ship or supertanker founders at sea. "Sloane had a six-man team. They found the Ikan Tanda lying broadside to the weather about two miles offshore. It was rolling heavily and was being swept by seas so large that the entire deck was going under, and waves were bursting over the top of the superstructure. The waves were running 14 seconds apart, an interval just large enough to allow each member of the team, in helmet and life vest, to be winched down onto the deck and take cover. They landed on one of the massive cargo hatches, unhooked from the harness, rolled to the edge, and dropped down to the side deck to crouch behind a coaming—the raised steel perimeter around a cargo hatch—just as the next wave swept across."
posted by Eyebrows McGee (21 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
What a badass! Great read. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get into marine salvage...
posted by stinkfoot at 12:55 PM on November 23, 2014

The story of the salvage of the Cougar Ace is pretty interesting too.
posted by ensign_ricky at 1:41 PM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Amazing great post. I can't even imagine how they do this.
posted by Carillon at 1:45 PM on November 23, 2014

Aha! I know this is a current article, but I could've sworn I read something similar on the blue several years ago, and it turns out (thanks to the reminder from ensign_ricky above) that it was a post about Titan Salvage and the Cougar Ace.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:09 PM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Cougar Ace is a sad story, because after all the effort to salvage it and its cargo, for some reason Nissan decided to scrap all the salvaged vehicles. Just cut them all up and destroyed them.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:11 PM on November 23, 2014

It never ceases to amaze me what humanity is capable of.
posted by valkane at 2:26 PM on November 23, 2014

...for some reason Nissan decided to scrap all the salvaged vehicles...

Well, they didn't know whether they would still be safe and reliable after being in those conditions for a couple of weeks. That was the responsible (or litigation-aware) decision to make.
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:29 PM on November 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Why did they refuse to take the Ikan Tanda if it was fine and sailing free?
posted by Canageek at 3:06 PM on November 23, 2014

I think one of the salvage crew died during the initial recon of the Cougar Ace, so in addition to all of the vehicles getting scraped, there was human cost as well. Engineering + special forces + lots of spectacular ways to die = marine salvage, apparently.
posted by ensign_ricky at 3:38 PM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Written by the fantastic William Langewiesche, whose work has been featured on MetaFilter many times before (he writes primarily about air and marine disasters and he does so exceptionally well--his description of the sinking of the Estonia is chilling).
posted by librarylis at 5:25 PM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Langewiesche's article on the Air France crash was exceptional, too.
posted by Mid at 5:33 PM on November 23, 2014

Yay, a new Langewiesche article! Happy day!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:19 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

stinkfoot: Now I'm trying to figure out how to get into marine salvage...

Having read a few of Langewiesche's pieces on the ocean, I think I can answer this one! Overload your ship, preferably in an unbalanced way; leave open a vital piece of of the hull to take on water; head into a storm; and carry an inexperinced crew with no common language. You'll be "in" marine salvage in no time!

(Just make certain not to let your insurance lapse.)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:21 PM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

A few days later a British insurance investigator named David Mockett inspected the ship and made the mistake of sending an e-mail expressing his opinion that the attack was a fraud. He wrote that he had scheduled a meeting for the following day that would prove it. He copied Sloane on the e-mail, along with his wife and a few others. It is widely presumed that the e-mail was intercepted or leaked. The next day a powerful bomb detonated beneath Mockett's car and killed him. The Yemeni government blamed al-Qaeda. A year later, after an investigation by Scotland Yard, a detective testifying at a British inquest said he believed that Mockett had been killed for getting too close to the truth.

Holy shit.

I'm also fascinated by the way Lloyd's of London works, and has worked, since the 17th century.
posted by rtha at 6:47 PM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the article.

I've gotten to see some marine salvage crews working a few times; after that, whenever I have a bad day at work and feel the urge to complain, I tell myself, "You may be having a bad day. . . but it's not a marine salvage bad day."

That shuts me up and gets me back to work quite quickly.
posted by barchan at 6:55 PM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

for some reason Nissan decided to scrap all the salvaged vehicles

In the U.S., there's relatively strict regulations on what can be sold as a 'new' vehicle; I suspect that after rescuing the cargo from the Cougar Ace, it's not just that they couldn't be sold as new, but they all had unspecified (potential) damages, and they don't have a normal outlet for unloading 'not new' vehicles. Even if they could be sold, it would be a huge markdown, and with a wildcard on future liabilities.

This info comes from my sysadmin at a previous employer, whose brother owned a wrecking yard. Periodically, a brand new Ford F-350 would arrive because some defect (likely cosmetic) had been found on inspection preventing it from being sold as is. So the brother would have to reduce the likely-totally-fine vehicle to pieces to find all the barcodes on all components to return to Ford, verifying that the vehicle had been scrapped (and thus preventing it from being sold under the table, in whole or in part). The sysadmin was warned that this was going to happen every time, to avoid dropping by and seeing it progress, which would reduce him to tears.
posted by fatbird at 8:18 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

They're not kidding about NO CURE NO PAY being right at the top of the form. (Note: Almost all links here are PDF)

Note how simple the actual contract is. What vessel is in need of salvage? When do you agree that the vessel has been safely salvaged? Are we using the SCOPIC clause? Date, time, sign here. The meat of the contract is in the Lloyd's Standard Salvage And Arbitration Clauses and Procedural Rules. But those are fixed, and owners/insurers and salvage crews are presumed to be familiar with them. To make this work, Lloyd's has to be scrupulously fair, and they almost always are.*

The point of the Open Salvage contract is speed. You don't dicker about what the hourly rate or equipment rentals. The salvage crew agrees to do what they can to save the vessel, period. If (and only if) they are successful, both sides agree to let an arbitrator decide what the salvage reward should be, based on the condition of the vessel and its cargo after the salvage and the danger faced in salvaging it.

Note that salvage is very different than rescue. Rescue is the act of saving human lives. All vessels, with the exception of naval vessels, have an explicit duty of rescue. Most naval vessels do as well, but by order from their command rather than treaty. Lifesaving services often have an explicit policy of disclaiming all salvage rights, even if they save the vessel. Salvage is concerned with saving the vessels and the cargos, and indeed, you cannot begin to work a LOF contract until you've assured rescue.

SCOPIC -- "Special COMPenstatIon Clause" -- deals with attempts at salvage that would probably fail, but are worth trying to protect the environment. Salvage crews would come upon a bulk carrier or oil carrier on the rocks and go "Well, you're fucked, no saving that" and not offer the LOF. By the time contracted remediation would be negotiated, much harm could happen by loss of cargo, and the insurance companies often ate that.

So, the SCOPIC clause allows them to offer the LOF with a guarantee of time and materials, to be determined by Lloyd's, even if the vessel isn't saved, so long as work has been done to minimized the damage. The real key is Clause 14 of SCOPIC: "The assessment of SCOPIC remuneration shall include the prevention of pollution as well as the removal of pollution in the immediate vicinity of the vessel insofar as this is necessary for the proper execution of the salvage but not otherwise." Since cargo is explicitly part of the LOF, keeping the oil onboard and off the shore is explicitly part of the salvage, and while the straight LOF wouldn't pay if you failed to do so, the SCOPIC clause will at least pay you time and materials if you give it an honest shot, and more if you succeed. It's the single biggest change in the history of the LOF, and many insurers have standing orders to their insured vessels that they are to accept, or even demand, the SCOPIC clause should they need salvage.

Open Salvage really only applies during or right after a vessel falls into danger. If you search Lloyd's and other naval insurers, you won't find a Open Salvage Award for the Costa Concordia. By the time the rescue was done, there wasn't any immediate salvage really required. So, the salvage of the Costa Concordia was done by straight contract rather than the LOF.

Indeed, you don't even need the LOF! If you find an abandoned vessel and save it, that's salvage. In this case, the relevant admiralty court would rule on the salvage award. The LOF, however, serves both to guarantee a reward for a salvager and limit the award to the owner/insurer.

Note that salvage applies to the vessel/wreck and the cargo. There's four kinds of cargo. Derelict is cargo aboard the vessel, and the vessel/wreck itself. Jetsam is cargo deliberately jettisoned in an attempt to save the ship. Flotsam is cargo is that is washed off or floats off a ship. Ligan is cargo that is deliberately dropped and marked with a buoy, or cargo inside a sunken vessel. In all cases, the title still belongs to the owner, and if you find random cargo on the beach, you are by law (in most countries) required to report that find. In the UK, this would be to the "Receiver of the Wrecks."

After a year (in the UK) the cargo becomes forfeit to the crown. However, by finding and reporting it, you have salvaged that cargo. So, regardless if it's claimed or unclaimed, you would be entitled to a salvage reward. In minor cases, that may well be the actual cargo, but if you found something valuable, you'd be asked to come tell the story to an admiralty court, who, upon claim or forfeit to the crown, would reward you for the salvage.

Most countries work the same way. In general, find out whatever your equivalent of the Coast Guard is and call them, but when in doubt, call the local police and file a report -- this will serve as record that you reported the wreckage while you find the right people to call.

The big exception on all of this is a countries' actual navy. Naval vessels are never eligible for salvage -- while the US would be quite happy if you helped save a DDG in distress, there is no legal claim for salvage against the US for doing so. They might give you an award. They might not. They get to decide. Naval vessels, nowadays, also will not put in claims for salvage, but they will put in towing costs if they give you a tow. Formerly, and famously, naval vessels could put in prize claims on ships seized or salvaged from a hostile navy, but that's no longer true.

*I'm tempted to say "always are", but Lloyd's has been around a long time and I'm sure you can find disputed rulings that went against Lloyd's initial rulings. But the reason Lloyd's is still the leader in the market is that everyone has found that Lloyd's is really really good about being fair.
posted by eriko at 5:22 AM on November 24, 2014 [12 favorites]

Here's a good one:
The first order of business was to transfer the ship's bunker fuel internally to get it away from the vulnerable lower hull, and then off-load it entirely using giant barrels known as sea slugs, which could be towed through the surf to the beach. There were two reasons for urgency. The first was protection of the coast should the ship break up. The second was the possibility that the fuel would come into contact with the cargo of fertilizer and transform the ship into a massive bomb. [my ital]
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:32 AM on November 24, 2014

Canageek: Why did they refuse to take the Ikan Tanda if it was fine and sailing free?

I suspect that most municipalities on being informed that a damaged ship full of fertilizer, potentially degraded by water/humidity or infiltrated with fuel oil, wanted to sail into port, said "Not coming near our town." Quite reasonably.
posted by tavella at 9:14 AM on November 24, 2014

Fascinating article! And thanks to eriko for the really interesting commentary, too. Once again, Metafilter introduces me to a really interesting topic that I'd never even heard of before.
posted by vytae at 10:19 AM on November 24, 2014

Farley Mowat wrote a great book called The Grey Seas Under about the adventures of a marine salvage tug. Still in print.

No cure, no pay. Often it is a race. The first tug to get a cable attached gets the claim.
posted by JackFlash at 10:54 AM on November 24, 2014

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