The Bottom Line from the U.S. Salvage Leadership

Marine News
Monday, September 09, 2013

In the choppy wake of regulatory changes, subtle changes in how, where and why salvors do business, high profile salvage assignments and still more lurking on the horizon, the American salvage community has a lot to say. This month, MarineNews brought together three industry heavyweights to find out what was on their minds. Collectively, they combine to recalibrate the perception of what a salvor should be, where the industry will evolve, and why.
 
Tim Beaver on the Role of the Salvor
The role of the marine salvor is to respond to a casualty – whether a fire, grounding, sinking, structural failure or even the threat of any of these disasters – and to provide speedy and effective solutions.  Marine casualty response, commonly called Salvage, is an interesting but little understood world.  It is a world of pumps and rigging, divers and engineers, tugs and derricks, fast response and hard contracts. To call a salvage company is to gain access to an amazing assortment of services. These services often are part and parcel of other marine disciplines such as marine construction, towing, diving and naval architecture to name a few. The role of these experienced and multifaceted companies and individuals is to minimize financial and environmental damages, by bringing fast and safe solutions to complex and unusual problems, understanding the ultimate goals of the client to first save lives, second save the environment and third save property. 
The American Salvage Association (ASA) has for over 12 years continuously promoted professionalism and ethical business practices among salvors as well as a greater understanding of what the salvage community provides to the critical maritime industry. In doing this, our organization has brought together the best salvors in North America with a firm commitment to our stated mission and goals.  These include reaching out to the maritime community of regulators, insurers and maritime professionals with conferences, educational programs and publications such as “Soundings.” The role of the ASA is to ensure open communication and cooperation with regulatory authorities that results in prompt, effective response, meeting regularly with various federal and state agencies to exchange views on the improvement of salvage and firefighting response in North America.
We at the American Salvage Association are proud of our role as salvage operators providing salvage and marine casualty response to North America, as well as to the world. Member companies are currently involved in a multitude of projects both domestically and abroad. It is important to understand the role of the ASA as well as of the salvage operator. One calls a salvor when in need of fast, professional, effective services. Customers are entitled to the kind of response described above.  We at the ASA promote this in our membership and recommend and encourage operators to get to know their salvage resources in advance of that midnight call for help. Our members stand ready to ‘keep the oil in the ship’ and to resolve your emergency with skill and professionalism you can rely upon both in North America and abroad.  

Paul Hankins on the Benefit of the OPA 90 Tank Vessel SMFF Regulations
With just a couple years since the implementation of the USCG OPA 90 Tank Vessel Salvage and Marine Firefighting (SMFF) regulations, it may be premature to declare complete success. I’d argue that it takes several Vessel Response Plan planning cycles, along with practice and exercises, to come to a full appreciation of what the regulations have accomplished. But in my view, I think it’s safe to say that they have helped achieve their primary objective – making our waterways safer. Among the many important advances that have been achieved by the SMFF regulations, two in particular stand out. 

  • Tank vessel owners and operators are more prepared now than they have ever been to quickly contact their salvor and get immediate advice and assistance. Early notification can mean the difference between small accident and calamity. As shippers become more comfortable with their contracted salvor, this process should get even better. For better or worse, gone are the days of a scramble by salvors to get the attention of a stricken ship’s owner for salvage services. We have replaced that arcane process with a facilitated methodology that simultaneously reduces uncertainty while increasing efficiency and response time.
  • Salvors are much better prepared to provide this assistance; not just in homeports, but nationwide as well. Whereas previous to the new regulations, salvors maintained loose coalitions with a variety of suppliers, vendors, and service providers, in today’s salvage world there are established agreements and contracts to lend aid. That helps both with timeliness of notifications as well as response. And, a corollary to this success is the salvor’s ability to provide advance knowledge of where equipment and personnel are located, again aiding in response time management. This illustrates the renewed emphasis on ensuring that firefighting personnel AND equipment are rapidly available. 

All told, the regulations have facilitated a better prepared salvage resource and a quicker notification timeline when trouble unfortunately strikes. The salvage industry looks forward to new developments as the process matures and strengthens.

Mauricio Garrido on Salvors – The Next Generation
It is an unfortunate but accurate assumption that marine casualties will continue to occur. For this reason, one could surmise that a ready-to-respond professional salvage capability should be a priority for property owners and underwriters as well as an expectation of the public in general. Such capability, however, can only be supported by putting it to work and ensuring that adequate compensation under fair terms is given the service provider not only to allow for reinvestment in equipment, but more importantly, in people.
Unfortunately, underwriters, the financial end-users of our services, tend to focus on the immediate quarterly bottom line of premium collected versus claims paid. This chronic tendency often leads to an underestimation of the job at hand and the hiring of alternative “cheaper” options which in the long run could result in a degradation of the professional salvage capability. 
The challenges faced by U.S.-based salvors are not just limited to client misperception, aggressive competition, and lack of work. Those passionate enough to stay in the industry must learn to accept the incongruent model of operating a business which demands speculative investment in the hopes of a job which cannot be forecasted. 
It is interesting to note that while global unemployment has recently escalated to alarming levels, the salvage industry has been able to maintain its strength levels. So while retention within the industry may not be a problem, recruitment of new young talent may indeed prove to be the real challenge facing U.S.-based salvors as they strive to formulate long term self-preservation. The ideal Salvage Master must be a generalist with an adaptable mindset that allows for constant specialized out-of-the-box thinking. On the job training is a must and the individual must be prepared to live aboard a virtual rollercoaster with an ever changing route where family life will sometimes necessarily take a back seat.  The salvage industry as a whole must focus on a long term strategy to create a steady supply of young personnel. Such strategy must be comprehensive enough to entice future professionals to “try it out” and determine if they enjoy the adrenaline rush and long days surrounding a casualty.  
A recruitment strategy to support the sustainability of our beloved industry is likely to fail if it is not based upon a campaign to increase the visibility of our industry at the household level. It is time to let America’s mainstream learn about all the good things salvors bring to life in order to attract those who aspire to be professional maritime problem solvers.


(As published in the August 2013 edition of Marine News - www.marinelink.com)
 

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