Understanding the difference between Commercial Assistance and Salvage is key to minimizing out-of-pocket expenses in an emergency situation. Mariners need to know what constitutes high or low risk when involved in situations on the water, and when to use a commercial towing service versus a salvage company. The key is also to know whether to approach a boat insurance company versus a membership marine towing organization when it comes time for payment since these two entities cover different kinds of assistance and reimbursement.
In Canada, the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary- now called Royal Canadian Marine Search & Rescue (RCM-SAR), are mandated to save human life, not property. In distress situations you may find yourself being evacuated from your boat only to watch it sink. A membership type organization like C-Tow will ensure that your vessel is properly taken care of after the “distress phase” is over. We have the highest trained Salvage and Commercial Assistance Operators on the B.C. Coast.
Peril is the term used to describe the amount of risk to either the disabled boat or to the rescuer. Low risk or low order of peril services performed by Commercial Assistance may involve mechanical breakdown, towing to a safe port, fuel deliveries, jump starts, line disentanglements, de-anchoring and soft ungroundings. Commercial Assistance specialize in these services and typically charge from $200 to $250 per hour, and possibly an additional per-foot charge for soft ungroundings. One way to avoid these hourly costs is to join a marine commercial assistance membership organization, such as C-Tow which has contracted service providers around the region and yearly coverage for $150.00
For cases involving high peril, or where there is a higher degree of risk, services will be performed at a much higher cost by a Commercial Assistance Operator or salvor . These situations include hard groundings; sinkings; collisions; break-aways from moorings, buoys or docks; fires aboard and vessels that are in close proximity to a fire source as well as vessels which are stranded in the surf line. Another situation, which may sometimes be considered high peril, is poor weather conditions. Awards for high order services may be either discretionary - a percentage of the value of the saved boat is awarded - or objective - an hourly or per foot charge is assessed with additional charges for severe weather or perilous conditions. The Canada Shipping Act 2001 clearly outlines the rights and responsibility of both the salvor and the vessel owner.
In order for a salvor to claim a reward, he must prove that marine peril from tides, waves, winds, land, reefs, fire, etc. was imminent. It also has to be stated if the services were voluntary, with no pre-existing agreement to render salvage, and also if there was a successful operation to save persons, property or the environment. The salvor can then submit a salvage award claim to the owner or to the insurance company of the salved vessel. The Canada Shipping Act 2001 clearly outlines the rights and responsibility of both the salvor and the vessel owner.
A subsequent written contract between the salvor and boat owner indicates the owner agrees that the services provided were for salvage as opposed to commercial assistance. If not settled upon demand, the salvor is entitled to place a lien on the vessel in the amount of the claim. In Canada the Receiver of Wrecks is the judiciary body that governs this process.
Boat owners should be aware that not all insurance companies covering boats would cover salvage services. A marine policy will usually provide salvage coverage equal to the hull value of the boat. However, lesser, no-frills policies sold by well-known auto and boat insurers may only contain provisions for minor wreck removal in the policy. The size of the boat and its location will dictate which policy is best.
Boaters often believe that low risk towing and assistance is covered in their insurance policies. Typically, insurance policies severely limit the amount of reimbursement they will provide for towing assistance. Therefore, membership in a marine towing association is a good idea to limit out of pocket costs in low risk situations.
Towing and low risk situations are many times more prevalent on the water than is the actual need for salvage. It is easy to run down the batteries after a night at anchor with the stereo and lights going. It is also easy to run out of fuel or to have an engine malfunction. Membership in C-Tow will avoid unpleasant costs when something goes wrong on the water. C-Tow is also a qualified and experienced salvage company.
If you are in immediate distress, always call the Coast Guard on Ch. 16. Or via cell-phone at *16.
BE SAFE, JOIN C-TOW!