Paying the Price for Salvage, Wreck Removal & Towing

Losing a vessel to the forces of nature, or worse, through navigational error, is traumatic and disheartening.

But you will almost certainly discover a new low point when you first receive the salvor's bill for salvage work or wreck removal. The phrase "sticker shock" comes to mind, but understates the case. The salvors expectations are created by 200 years of Admiralty Court decisions - including recent ones - where judicious minds felt that significant "rewards" were necessary to encourage people to invest their capital and risk their lives to save others in peril on the sea.


To deal with the cost and complications of salvage claims, boaters should insure with a yacht insurance company that employs specialists in marine claims. Ask your agent to determine this (they will know which companies have these specialists, and if they do not know, consider shopping for a different agent). Also, ask your agent or read your boat insurance policy to make certain that it:

  • Specifically covers salvage charges (or the costs to rescue the boat from perils at sea).
  • Provides salvage coverage equal to the value of the boat.
  • Provides the salvage coverage in addition to the repair of any damage to the boat.
  • Does not apply a deductible or other adjustment to the payment.

The BoatUS Agreed Hull Value Policy provides this level of coverage for salvage.
Go To BoatUS Marine Insurance

Paying for wreck removal

Contrary to popular myth, you cannot abandon a vessel at sea or on a reef, collect your insurance and forget about it. The Owner of a vessel remains liable for subsequent problems associated with that vessel.

One such problem will be immediately visited upon you - somewhat akin to Scrooge's experience with the Ghost from Christmas Future. If your boat went down in, or near a navigable channel, the U.S. Coast Guard will require its removal. If the Owner fails to respond, the Coast Guard will remove it for them and expect the Owner to pay the bill (large bill) along with a possible fine.

This can all be avoided with a marine insurance "protection and indemnity" policy that specifically provides coverage for removal of wreck. Boaters should confirm with their agents that:

  • Their insurance company's claims department is experienced at raising sunken boats and removing wrecks from reefs, beaches and other places they don't belong. Such a company's marine insurance claims specialist would help you locate the right type of assistance, and very importantly handle all negotiations, arbitration or litigation associated with a wreck removal bill.
  • Their boat insurance policy specifically includes a removal of wreck feature in their liability (protection and indemnity section) equivalent to the normal limit of liability ($300,000 recommended) which would pay the bill and the cost of litigation.
  • There is no deductible or other adjustment to the cost of removing the wreck.

To pay for towing

The cost of towing is straightforward. Marine Assistance companies charge an average of $250 per hour from the time they leave their dock, to the time they return to their dock.

Time (portal to portal)RateCost
1.5 hours to scene$250.00 per hour$375.00
10 minute ungrounding24ft @ $20.00 per foot$480.00
1.5 hours return time$225.00 per hour (night)$337.50

Most towing companies expect cash or credit cards and some accept personal checks. BoatUS Members can avoid the potential problem of coming up with a payment on the spot by selecting one of the BoatUS Towing Services higher options.

More Information About TowBoatUS


Towing vs. Salvage
Towing vs. Salvage
Salvage: Hard aground
Salvage: Hard aground