Salvage Arbitration

Recreational vessel salvage can seem as risky as the reefs and shoals from which some stranded boats are rescued.

On one hand is the salvor. His claim for payment for saving a boat from harm is based on his expertise, his exposure to danger and his use of high-tech and expensive equipment. On the other hand is the boat's insurance company or, in some cases, the uninsured boat owner, protesting the amount of the salvage claim because the salvor over-stated the risk or effort involved.

Salvage disputes are often settled through negotiations between the salvor and the boat owner's insurance company. Should these negotiations break down, however, the BoatUS Salvage Arbitration Plan can help resolve disputes objectively, quickly and inexpensively. Since the Plan's inception, dozens of disputes between salvors and insurance companies have been processed, involving cases from New England to the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. The BoatUS Salvage Arbitration Plan puts the decision-making in the hands of knowledgeable marine professionals, who review the facts of the case and reach a settlement based on admiralty law.

The BoatUS Salvage Plan is impartial. The Plan relies on a three-member arbitration panel to settle the dispute. The salvor and the insurance company each select an arbitrator from a list of marine professionals and admiralty attorneys who are experienced in salvage matters. The two panel members then choose a panel chairman, who is always an admiralty attorney. Once the arbitration begins, there are no direct communications between the parties and the arbitration panel. All communication is conducted in writing and no in-person testimony is necessary. Both complainants have the opportunity to rebut any information presented by their opponent. BoatUS plays absolutely no role in the process leading to the panel's salvage award decision. It serves only in an administrative capacity, facilitating communications between the arbitration panel and the complainants.

The BoatUS Salvage Plan is inexpensive. The Plan provides for a maximum per-party fee of $2,750 — considerably less than court proceedings. Fees are based on an hourly rate of $175 (with a seven-hour maximum) for each arbitrator and an hourly rate of $225 (with a 12-hour maximum) for the chairman, plus a flat fee of $350 for administrative costs.

The BoatUS Salvage Plan is fast. Unlike court proceedings, which can drag on for years, the Plan requires the panel to develop a settlement award no more than 12 weeks after being convened. And, since both parties have already agreed that any decision reached by the panel is binding, there is no lengthy appeal process to prolong the proceedings.

To learn more about the Boat Owners Association of The United States Salvage Arbitration Plan, you may request a copy of the Plan book and a list of arbitrators by writing to:

Boat Owners Association of The United States
Salvage Arbitration Plan
880 S. Pickett St.
Alexandria, VA 22304

Email Salvage Arbitration

Although BoatUS can not provide legal advice regarding salvage disputes, we can refer boaters to admiralty lawyers around the country. For attorney referrals, call 800-283-2883.


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