Maritime Salvage Laws: What Boaters Need to Know

The maritime salvage laws on the books today originated well before the days of Christopher Columbus. Today, salvage laws remain relatively unchanged. Boaters in Florida and across the nation should understand how and when these laws apply to them. Otherwise, you could end up with a shocking bill for even basic assistance on the water.

A long-time friend of mine is a charter captain in Sebastian, Florida. He was fishing offshore with clients and noticed a slight crack in the hull, which let water in below decks. With an abundance of caution, he headed back to shore and contacted a popular maritime salvage and towing company to provide assistance. This company rushed a boat to his location and tossed him a pump to help minimize the effects of the leak. The company representative never set foot on my friend’s boat. A couple weeks later, my friend received a shocker of a bill—for $3,800.

I recently learned about another individual who received a bill for a salvage claim that was several times that amount. This particular individual was a few hundred yards from shore while traveling to Key West when he saw there was more water in the bilge than normal. He got on the radio and called for a friend to help, but a maritime salvage company met him and helped pump water from the bilge. The company employee was on the boat for less than five minutes. Because the company classified the service as “salvage,” this boat owner received a bill for $30,000 even though he had a membership agreement with this company.

I don’t share these stories to make people distrust maritime salvage and towing companies. I personally have a membership with one of these companies, and all the assistance they’ve provided was swift and above board.

See the full article in the November 2017 edition of Coastal Angler Magazine: Click Here