Is It Towing Or Salvage?
While fees can vary, the four cases
below give examples of the different types
of work and subsequent fees that are liable
to be charged by towers/salvors.
1. High And Dry Grounding
The Incident: A 42-foot powerboat
winds up on a sandy beach in Southern
California after its owner turns on the auto-
pilot and goes below. The boat is stranded
in a sheltered area away from breaking
waves, in no danger of further damage.
The Outcome: The owner calls his
insurance company, which solicits bids
from multiple salvage companies for “
prearranged salvage.” The winning contractor,
TowBoatU.S. Mission Bay, digs the boat
out and uses a 1,200-foot towline to pull
it back to deep water without further damage. The $60,000 cost is paid by the insurance company.
2. Leaking Fuel
The Incident: The diesel fuel tank on
a 43-foot motoryacht in Ohio is leaking
fuel into the bilge and then overboard via
the bilge pump. A large slick extends over
much of the marina. The marina manager
calls the local fire department. After exam-
ining the boat, the fireman calls the local
TowBoatU.S. licensee, which shuts off the
boat’s electrical system and bilge pump.
They then use floating booms to contain
the slick and tow the boat over to a Travelift
so it can be hauled out.
The Outcome: The owner is billed
$1,200 for time and materials, including
the towboat, two men, and floating oil-spill containment booms. The cost is covered by the boat owner’s insurance policy.
(Note: Leaking fuel should always involve
the fire department. Even small amounts
of gasoline in the bilge pose a significant
risk of explosion and must be neutralized.
Diesel fuel, while far less dangerous in a
bilge, poses an even greater risk to the environment if it’s pumped overboard. With
any fuel spill, vessel owners are required
to call the National Pollution Center: 800-
3. Caught In The Surf
The Incident: A man fishing from his
20-foot runabout in the ocean off the New
Jersey coast notices the boat has drifted
close to the surf and decides to move back
to deeper water. His engine stubbornly
refuses to start. After several minutes, he
gives up and calls TowBoatU.S. By the time
help arrives, the boat has drifted into the
surf. Rather than risk his own boat, the
TowBoatU.S. captain sends a swimmer
with the tow line into the surf. A few min-
utes later, the boat is towed to safety.
4. Taking On Water
The Incident: A 42-foot trawler in
Louisiana is approaching its marina when a
bilge alarm begins sounding loudly.
The startled owner quickly confirms
that the boat is taking on a lot of water and
calls the Coast Guard, which places pumps
aboard and tows the boat to the marina,
where a second pump is put aboard.
Once the boat is stabilized, the owner
calls a local marine handyman, a diver,
whom he had occasionally hired to clean
his boat’s props. The handyman dives
under the boat and discovers that one of
the shafts had slipped out. A short time
later, the hole is plugged and the pumps
taken away. The following day the diver
presents the trawler’s owner with a salvage
bill for $35,000!
The Outcome: BoatU.S., which
insured the boat under a Yacht Insurance
policy, contests the bill. After many months
of legal wrangling, and some hefty attorney
bills, the contested claim goes to court
where the judge awards a “low-order” salvage fee of $3,000 for time and materials.
Bob Adriance has written
more than 500 articles
for Seaworthy, the quar-
terly BoatU.S. Marine
boaters to avoid acci-
dents. Seaworthy is
sent free to BoatU.S.
ers; paper subscrip-
tions are $10 a year.