SALVAGE.- The word “salvage” is used in two senses: it sometimes means the property which is saved from a wrecked vessel, and frequently has this meaning among insurers and in insurance; but in Admiralty, and generally in the law merchant, it means the compensation which is earned by persons
who voluntarily assist in saving a ship or her cargo from peril. A salvor may be defined to be one who assists a vessel in distress, acting at the time as a volunteer, and not under any contract or duty which binds him to that particular service. Salvage is not claimable in every case in which work and labour are done about the preservation of a ship and cargo; there must, usually, in order to support a claim for salvage, be skill and enterprise on the part of the salvors, and peril with respect to the property saved. Thus, if the services rendered to a vessel not disabled or in distress do not exceed the ordinary assistance which is rendered by a towing ship, no salvage can be claimed. If, however, a steamer renders assistance to a disabled vessel by towing, she may be entitled to salvage; and a service which commences as a mere towage service may, if new circumstances arise, become a salvage service. The conversion of towage into salvage service depends on the circumstances of each particular case; and the courts watch with jealousy the conduct of steam tugs, in cases of this description, in order to see that the increased danger from which the ship may have been rescued was not attributable to the fault of the tug.
Salvage is due to those who capture royal fish near the coasts of England. Useful services of any kind rendered to a vessel or her cargo in danger of loss or damage may entitle those who render them to salvage reward. Persons bringing a derelict ship, or goods belonging to her, into port, raising a sunken ship, securing wreck, or protecting the cargo of a stranded vessel by transhipping it, or removing it to a place of safety, may be entitle to salvage.
The supplying of mariners to a ship without a crew competent to manage her, the furnishing of an anchor and chain in boisterous weather to a ship at sea which has slipped her anchor, the rescuing of a ship from the peril of impending collision, the assisting to extinguish a fire on board a ship, are all acts which may constitute salvage services.
Although it commonly happens that in rescuing property from danger the salvors necessarily expose themselves to peril, yet work involving no extraordinary exertion, enterprise, or risk may constitute a salvage service; but where risk is incurred by the salvors, that circumstance is most material with reference to the question of the amount of the reward.