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If Worst Comes To Worst

Whether you've run aground or your engine has failed, in an emergency situation the captain and crew need to make swift decisions. Anyone reliant on the assistance of others in such circumstances will often have more pressing concerns than possible towing or salvage costs. That said, these can cause nasty surprises later on.

Pantaenius is involved in a variety of salvage operations every year, some of which are highly complex. Observant readers of Pantaenius Yachting News will probably recall the spectacular case of the OCEAN ONE motor yacht, which just under three years ago had an accident due to a design flaw. In a great many cases however, yachts need to be salvaged at short notice and with little detailed planning. Any help is valuable when it comes to averting the threat of damage or total loss. From professional service providers to private yachts and commercial fishing vessels, any captain can in principle come to the aid of a yacht in distress at sea. If successful in salvaging the vessel, any salvor is entitled to charge a reasonable salvage fee. But what some people don't realise is that this fee can equate to as much as 100% of the value of the vessel.

As a Pantaenius customer, you will always be in safe hands if your vessel needs to be salvaged.

The International Convention on Salvage, 1989

Whilst the duty to rescue people in hazardous situations at sea has been commonly recognised as a matter of course since time immemorial and has been incorporated by the UN SOLAS Convention into international maritime law, there is no additional obligation to attempt to salvage the stricken yacht at the same time. In order to provide some incentive to assist in salvage operations - even ones that cause detours or, in the case of commercial vessels, loss of earnings – the International Convention on Salvage was concluded in 1989. In order to claim a salvage fee, the salvor must satisfy three criteria under this convention. Firstly, the salvaged vessel or the items it carries must be in danger; secondly, the salvor must act voluntarily, i.e. without being required by law to assist; thirdly, the salvage operation must be successful.

In practice, the question as to whether the affected vessel is in danger and whether a salvage fee is due - as opposed to the usually much smaller reward for towing assistance - is often not clear-cut. Professional salvage companies therefore frequently rely on selfdevised definitions to determine the circumstances under which they are entitled to a salvage fee. The salvage fee amount, as defined in the International Convention on Salvage, 1989, depends on ten different criteria. Determining factors include the value of the salvaged vessel, the extent to which it was successfully salvaged, the expertise of the salvor, the amount of time they gave up, their willingness to assist and the suitability of the equipment used. It follows that the salvage fee charged by a professional salvage company will  generally be higher than that charged by the captain of a private vessel.

No cure – no pay

As a Pantaenius customer, you will always be in safe hands if your vessel needs to be salvaged. The terms of our hull insurance cover salvage costs provided that the insured vessel is in direct danger of being damaged. When it comes to emergency salvage however every owner/captain should be mindful of some basic rules so as to avoid exceeding the terms of their cover. 

The most important rule is to never agree on any salvage fee in advance. If possible, you should instead contact your insurance partner as soon as possible so that they can supervise any negotiations. Under no circumstances should you make any statements about the value of the yacht or sign any agreements. The in-house claims department at Pantaenius can be contacted around the clock and is very experienced in handling such situations. If these steps cannot be taken or if a salvor insists on an immediate agreement, Pantaenius recommends that you use the Lloyd's Open Form (LOF) agreement. This standardised agreement does not specify any salvage fee and contains a 'no cure – no pay' provision. Once the vessel has been successfully salvaged, the remuneration will later be decided by an arbitral tribunal.


  • Contact your insurance partner as soon as possible
  • Do not sign a salvage agreement. If you have to, only use Loyd’s Open Form
  • Do not agree a salvage fee or make any statements about the value of your yacht
  • Contribute to the salvage as much as you can
  • Make notes or records of the precise circumstances and the duration of the salvage


  • Value of salved ship and all property preserved
  • Competence and efforts of salvor to prevent environmental harm
  • Extent of success of salvor
  • Circumstances and extent of danger
  • Competence and effort of salvor for safe guarding vessel/property and for saving life
  • Spent time and effort and loss
  • Liability and other hazards
  • Promptness of salvage service
  • Availability and assignment of boats
  • Availibility and capability of equipment
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