Law of Tug and Tow and Offshore Contracts

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Towage and salvage

Part A. Preliminary Considerations

The historical relationship between towage and salvage

8.1 Before the advent of the steam tug, towage of one vessel by another as the rendering of a commercial service by a vessel dedicated to towage was all but unknown. All vessels were sailing ships and want of wind or the awkward set of the wind would affect all such vessels equally. While in port some small towage and manoeuvring would be carried out by oarsmen (as it was until relatively recently by the foyboatmen of the north-east coast eg at Shields: see The MacGregor Laird [1953] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 259), towage in the sense in which it is understood today, and as has been considered in above, did not exist. 8.2 This is not to say that towage as an operation did not exist. The towing of one vessel by another commonly arose, but it arose in the context of one vessel rendering assistance to another which was in distress, for example a vessel which had become stranded or which had lost her sails or her rudder. Towage rendered in such a context was usually simply a form, albeit perhaps the commonest form, of salvage assistance. Accordingly, towage when considered at law was considered in the context of a claim for salvage by one vessel in the respect of a salvage service rendered to another vessel the issues between the parties were whether the service satisfied the requirements for such a claim and what was the appropriate level of remuneration. 8.3 With the coming of the steam tug, towage as a commercial operation became possible and tug owners built up their businesses in ports and in the great rivers. Their tugs could be engaged by vessels for towage in all circumstances, the towage being constrained only by the initially limited boiler power of the early paddle tugs. The size and power of the tugs grew and tugs became involved in long ocean tows. The owners of the vessel towed were usually anxious to keep the tug within the terms of the contract which had been concluded between them, especially those as to remuneration. Equally, the tug owner would often be faced with weather and towing conditions which he had not anticipated and which made the bargain less advantageous; in such a case, he often sought to contend that the service which he had rendered was one which fell outside the contract and which entitled him to additional salvage remuneration. 8.4 With the development of the steam tug in the early part of the nineteenth century, the operations in which such tugs became engaged expanded from the mere expediting of the progress through the water of the sailing vessel under tow (cf. the definition given of towage by Dr Lushington in The Princess Alice (1849) 3 Wm Rob 138) to wider services concerning the handling of vessels. Historically, the emergence of the professional salvor, that is to say a person who keeps tugs and other vessels adapted for salvage work and ready for salvage work, followed the development of the large-scale towing companies. Such companies soon grew up in the large ports or where there were navigable waterways in which the sailing vessels particularly required handling and towing. By the end of the century, certain tug owners and operators had large fleets of tugs and such tugs were often very powerful. The tug operators were able to respond to requests for assistance from disabled vessels or vessels in distress and, indeed, to solicit salvage work from such vessels. Such salvage assistance was a useful adjunct to their usual field of operations and provided

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employment for tugs which might otherwise be idle. Where the largest tug operators were situated, there grew up a commitment to and an experience in salvage which soon established their status as “professional” In Dutch and Scandinavian waters the tugs of three or four companies became established as the leaders in the provision of towage and salvage. The development of the salvage industry out of but as a part of the towage industry meant that increasingly towage and salvage contracts were kept separate. It also led to the growth of towage sub-contracts within the context of salvage as tug owners performing a salvage operation contracted in additional tugs from other operators.

The nature of salvage

8.5 Something as to the nature of salvage has been said above in . Salvage, unlike towage, has never been the subject of precise or satisfactory judicial definition. Indeed, it was stated by Lord Stowell in The Governor Raffles (1818) 2 Dods 14 at p. 17 that:

It has been said that no exact definition of salvage is given in any of the books. I do not know that it has, and I should be sorry to limit it by any definition now.

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