The International Convention on Salvage, 1989 is an international treaty that sets down the general principles of marine salvage in black and white. The United States is a signatory of this treaty and it has been ratified by the U.S. Senate, giving it the effect of statutory U.S. Federal Law.
The International Convention on Salvage 1989
THE STATES PARTIES TO THE PRESENT CONVENTION
RECOGNIZING the desirability of determining by agreement uniform international rules
regarding salvage operations,
NOTING that substantial developments, in particular the increased concern for the
protection of the environment, have demonstrated the need to review the international
rules presently contained in the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law
relating to Assistance and Salvage at Sea, done at Brussels, 23 September 1910,
CONSCIOUS of the major contribution which efficient and timely salvage operations can
make to the safety of vessels and other property in danger and to the protection of the
CONVINCED of the need to ensure that adequate incentives are available to persons
who undertake salvage operations in respect of vessels and other property in danger,
Chapter I - General provisions
Article 1 - Definitions
For the purpose of this Convention:
1. Salvage operation means any act or activity undertaken to assist a vessel or any other
property in danger in navigable waters or in any other waters whatsoever.
2. Vessel means any ship or craft, or any structure capable of navigation.
3. Property means any property not permanently and intentionally attache to the shoreline
and includes freight at risk.
4. Damage to the environment means substantial physical damage to human health or to
marine life or resources in coastal or inland waters or areas adjacent thereto, caused by
pollution, contamination, fire, explosion or similar major incidents.
5. Payment means any reward, remuneration or compensation due under this Convention.
6. Organization means the International Maritime Organization.
7. Secretary-General means the Secretary-General of the Organization.
Article 2 - Application of the Convention
This Convention shall apply whenever judicial or arbitral proceedings relating to matters
dealt with in this Convention are brought in a State Party.
Article 3 - Platforms and drilling units
This Convention shall not apply to fixed or floating platforms or to mobile offshore drilling
units when such platforms or units are on location engaged the exploration, exploitation or
production of sea-bed mineral resources.
Article 4 - State-owned vessels
1. Without prejudice to article 5, this Convention shall not apply to warships or other noncommercial
vessels owned or operated by a State and entitled, at the time of salvage
operations, to sovereign immunity under generally recognized principles of international
law unless that State decides otherwise.
2. Where a State Party decides to apply the Convention to its warships or other vessels
described in paragraph 1, it shall notify the Secretary-General thereof specifying the terms
and conditions of such application.
Article 5 - Salvage operations controlled by public authorities
1. This Convention shall not affect any provisions of national law or any international
convention relating to salvage operations by or under the control of public authorities.
2. Nevertheless, salvors carrying out such salvage operations shall be entitled to avail
themselves of the rights and remedies provided for in this Convention in respect of salvage
3. The extent to which a public authority under a duty to perform salvage operations may
avail itself of the rights and remedies provided for in this Convention shall be determined
by the law of the State where such authority is situated.
Article 6 - Salvage contracts
1. This Convention shall apply to any salvage operations save to the extent that a contract
otherwise provides expressly or by implication.
2. The master shall have the authority to conclude contracts for salvage operations on
behalf of the owner of the vessel. The master or the owner of the vessel shall have the
authority to conclude such contracts on behalf of the owner of the property on board the
3. Nothing in this article shall affect the application of article 7 nor duties to prevent or
minimize damage to the environment.
Article 7 - Annulment and modification of contracts
A contract or any terms thereof may be annulled or modified if:
1. the contract has been entered into under undue influence or the influence of danger and
its terms are inequitable; or
2. the payment under the contract is in an excessive degree too large or too small for the
services actually rendered.
Chapter II - Performance of salvage operations
Article 8 - Duties of the salvor and of the owner and master
1. The salvor shall owe a duty to the owner of the vessel or other property in danger:
a. to carry out the salvage operations with due care;
b. in performing the duty specified in subparagraph (a), to exercise due care to prevent or
minimize damage to the environment:
c. whenever circumstances reasonably require, to seek assistance from other salvors; and
d. to accept the intervention of other salvors when reasonably requested to do so by the
owner or master of the vessel or other property in danger; provided however that the
amount of his reward shall not be prejudiced should it be found that such a request was
2. The owner and master of the vessel or the owner of other property in danger shall owe
a duty to the salvor:
a. to co-operate fully with him during the course of the salvage operations;
b. in so doing, to exercise due care to prevent or minimize damage to the environment;
c. when the vessel or other property has been brought to a place of safety, to accept
redelivery when reasonably requested by the salvor to do so.
Article 9 - Rights of coastal States
Nothing in this Convention shall affect the right of the coastal State concerned to take
measures in accordance with generally recognized principles of international law to protect
its coastline or related interests from pollution or the threat of pollution following upon a
maritime casualty or acts relating to such a casualty which may reasonably be expected to
result in major harmful consequences, including the right of a coastal State to give
directions in relation to salvage operations.
Article 10 - Duty to render assistance
1. Every master is bound, so far as he can do so without serious danger to his vessel and
persons thereon, to render assistance to any person in danger of being lost at sea.
2. The States Parties shall adopt the measures necessary to enforce the duty set out in
3. The owner of the vessel shall incur no liability for at breach of the duty of the master
under paragraph 1.
Article 11 - Co-operation
A State Party shall, whenever regulating or deciding upon matters relating to salvage
operations such as admittance to ports of vessels in distress or the provision of facilities to
salvors, take into account the need for co-operation between salvors, other interested
parties and public authorities in order to ensure the efficient and successful performance of
salvage operations for the purpose of saving life or property in danger as well as
preventing damage to the environment in general.
Chapter III - Rights of salvors
Article 12 - Conditions for reward
1. Salvage operations which have had a useful result give right to a reward.
2. Except as otherwise provided, no payment is due under this Convention if the salvage
operations have had no useful result.
3. This chapter shall apply, notwithstanding that the salved vessel and the vessel
undertaking the salvage operations belong to the same owner.
Article 13 - Criteria for fixing the reward
1. The reward shall be fixed with a view to encouraging salvage operations, taking into
account the following criteria without regard to the order in which they are presented
a. the salved value of the vessel and other property;
b. the skill and efforts of the salvors in preventing or minimizing damage to the
c. the measure of success obtained by the salvor;
d. the nature and degree of the danger;
e. the skill and efforts of the salvors in salving the vessel, other property and life;
f. the time used and expenses and losses incurred by the salvors;
g. the risk of liability and other risks run by the salvors or their equipment;
h. the promptness of the services rendered;
i. the availability and use of vessels or other equipment intended for salvage operations;
j. the state of readiness and efficiency of the salvor's equipment and the value thereof.
2. Payment of a reward fixed according to paragraph 1 shall be made by all of the vessel
and other property interests in proportion to their respective salved values. However, a
State Party may in its national law provide that the payment of a reward has to be made
by one of these interests, subject to a right of recourse of this interest against the other
interests for their respective shares. Nothing in this article shall prevent any right of
3. The rewards, exclusive of any interest and recoverable legal costs that may be payable
thereon, shall not exceed the salved value of the vessel and other property.
Article 14 - Special compensation
1. If the salvor has carried out salvage operations in respect of a vessel which by itself or
its cargo threatened damage to the environment and has failed to earn a reward under
article 13 at least equivalent to the special compensation assessable in accordance with
this article, he shall be entitled to special compensation from the owner of that vessel
equivalent to his expenses as herein defined.
2. If, in the circumstances set out in paragraph 1, the salvor by his salvage operations has
prevented or minimized damage to the environment, the special compensation payable by
the owner to the salvor under paragraph 1 may be increased up to a maximum of 30% of
the expenses incurred by the salvor. However, the tribunal, if it deems it fair and just to do
so and bearing in mind the relevant criteria set out in article 13, paragraph 1, may increase
such special compensation further, but in no event shall the total increase be more than
100% of the expenses incurred by the salvor.
3. Salvor's expenses for the purpose of paragraphs 1 and 2 means the out-of-pocket
expenses reasonably incurred by the salvor in the salvage operation and a fair rate for
equipment and personnel actually and reasonably used in the salvage operation, taking
into consideration the criteria set out in article 13, paragraph 1 (h), (i) and (j).
4. The total special compensation under this article shall be paid only if and to the extent
that such compensation is greater than any reward recoverable by the salvor under article
5. If the salvor has been negligent and has thereby failed to prevent or minimize damage to
the environment, he may be deprived of the whole or part of any special compensation
due under this article.
6. Nothing in this article shall affect any right of recourse on the part of the owner of the
Article 15 - Apportionment between salvors
1. The apportionment of a reward under article 13 between salvors shall be made on the
basis of the criteria contained in that article.
2. The apportionment between the owner, master and other persons in the service of each
salving vessel shall be determined by the law of the flag of that vessel. If the salvage has
not been carried out from a vessel, the apportionment shall be determined by the law
governing the contract between the salvor and his servants.
Article 16 - Salvage of persons
1. No remuneration is due from persons whose lives are saved, but nothing in this article
shall affect the provisions of national law on this subject.
2. A salvor of human life, who has taken part in the services rendered on the occasion of
the accident giving rise to salvage, is entitled to a fair share of the payment awarded to the
salvor for salving the vessel or other property or preventing or minimizing damage to the
Article 17 - Services rendered under existing contracts
No payment is due under the provisions of this Convention unless the services rendered
exceed what can be reasonably considered as due performance of a contract entered into
before the danger arose.
Article 18 - The effect of salvor's misconduct
A salvor may be deprived of the whole or part of the payment due under this Convention
to the extent that the salvage operations have become necessary or more difficult because
of fault or neglect on his part or if the salvor has been guilty of fraud or other dishonest
Article 19 - Prohibition of salvage operations
Services rendered notwithstanding the express and reasonable prohibition of the owner or
master of the vessel or the owner of any other property in danger which is not and has not
been on board the vessel shall not give rise to payment under this Convention
Chapter IV - Claims and actions
Article 20 - Maritime lien
1. Nothing in this Convention shall affect the salvor's maritime lien under any international
convention or national law.
2. The salvor may not enforce his maritime lien when satisfactory security for his claim,
including interest and costs, has been duly tendered or provided.
Article 21 - Duty to provide security
1. Upon the request of the salvor a person liable for a payment due under this Convention
shall provide satisfactory security for the claim, including interest and costs of the salvor.
2. Without prejudice to paragraph 1, the owner of the salved vessel shall use his best
endeavors to ensure that the owners of the cargo provide satisfactory security for the
claims against them including interest and costs before the cargo is released.
3. The salved vessel and other property shall not, without the consent of the salvor, be
removed from the port or place at which they first arrive after the completion of the
salvage operations until satisfactory security has been put up for the salvor's claim against
the relevant vessel or property.
Article 22 - Interim payment
1. The tribunal having jurisdiction over the claim of the salvor may, by interim decision,
order that the salvor shall be paid on account such amount as seems fair and just, and on
such terms including terms as to security where appropriate, as may be fair and just
according to the circumstances of the case.
2. In the event of an interim payment under this article the security provided under article
21 shall be reduced accordingly.
Article 23 - Limitation of actions
1. Any action relating to payment under this Convention shall be time-barred if judicial or
arbitral proceedings have not been instituted within a period of two years. The limitation
period commences on the day on which the salvage operations are terminated.
2. The person against whom a claim is made may at any time during the running of the
limitation period extend that period by a declaration to the claimant. This period may in
the like manner be further extended.
3. An action for indemnity by a person liable may be instituted even after the expiration of
the limitation period provided for in the preceding paragraphs, if brought within the time
allowed by the law of the State where proceedings are instituted.
Article 24 - Interest
The right of the salvor to interest on any payment due under this Convention shall be
determined according to the law of the State in which the tribunal seized of the case is
Article 25 - State-owned cargoes
Unless the State owner consents, no provision of this Convention shall be used as a basis
for the seizure, arrest or detention by any legal process of, nor for any proceedings in rem
against, non-commercial cargoes owned by a State and entitled, at the time of the salvage
operations, to sovereign immunity under generally recognized principles of international
Article 26 - Humanitarian cargoes
No provision of this Convention shall be used as a basis for the seizure, arrest or
detention of humanitarian cargoes donated by a State, if such State has agreed to pay for
salvage services rendered in respect of such humanitarian cargoes.
Article 27 - Publication of arbitral awards
States Parties shall encourage, as far as possible and with the consent of the parties, the
publication of arbitral awards made in salvage cases.
Chapter V - Final clauses
Article 28 - Signature, ratification, acceptance approval and
1. This Convention shall be open for signature at the Headquarters of the Organization
from 1 July 1989 to 30 June 1990 and shall thereafter remain open for accession.
2. States may express their consent to be bound by this Convention by:
a. signature without reservation as to ratification, acceptance or approval; or
b. signature subject to ratification, acceptance or approval, followed by ratification,
acceptance or approval; or
3. Ratification, acceptance, approval or accession shall be effected by the deposit of an
instrument to that effect with the Secretary-General.
Article 29 - Entry into force
1. This Convention shall enter into force one year after the date on which 15 States have
expressed their consent to be bound by it.
2. For a State which expresses its consent to be bound by this Convention after the
conditions for entry into force thereof have been met, such consent shall take effect one
year after the date of expression of such consent.
Article 30 - Reservations
1. Any State may, at the time of signature, ratification, acceptance, approval or accession,
reserve the right not to apply the provisions of this Convention:
a. when the salvage operation takes place in inland waters and all vessels involved are of
b. when the salvage operations take place in inland waters and no vessel is involved;
c. when all interested parties are nationals of that State;
d. when the property involved is maritime cultural property of prehistoric, archaeological
or historic interest and is situated on the sea-bed.
2. Reservations made at the time of signature are subject to confirmation upon ratification,
acceptance or approval.
3. Any State which has made a reservation to this Convention may withdraw it at any time
by means of a notification addressed to the Secretary-General. Such withdrawal shall take
effect on the date the notification is received. If the notification states that the withdrawal
of a reservation is to take effect on a date specified therein, and such date is later than the
date the notification is received by the Secretary-General, the withdrawal shall take effect
on such later date.
Article 31 - Denunciation
1. This Convention may be denounced by any State Party at any time after the expiry of
one year from the date on which this Convention enters into force for that State.
2. Denunciation shall be effected by the deposit of an instrument of denunciation with the
3. A denunciation shall take effect one year, or such longer period as may be specified in
the instrument of denunciation, after the receipt of the instrument of denunciation by the
Article 32 - Revision and amendment
1. A conference for the purpose of revising or amending this Convention may be
convened by the Organization.
2. The Secretary-General shall convene a conference of the States Parties to this
Convention for revising or amending the Convention, at the request of eight States Parties,
or one fourth of the States Parties, whichever is the higher figure.
3. Any consent to be bound by this Convention expressed after the date of entry into
force of an amendment to this Convention shall be deemed to apply to the Convention as
Article 33 - Depositary
1. This convention shall be deposited with the Secretary-General.
2. The Secretary-General shall:
a. inform all States which have signed this Convention or acceded thereto, and all
Members of the Organization, of:
1. each new signature or deposit of an instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or
accession together with the date thereof;
2. the date of the entry into force of this Convention;
3. the deposit of any instrument of denunciation of this Convention together with the date
on which it is received and the date on which the denunciation takes effect;
4. any amendment adopted in conformity with article 32;
5. the receipt of any reservation, declaration or notification made under this Convention;
b. transmit certified true copies of this Convention to all States which have signed this
Convention or acceded thereto.
3. As soon as this Convention enters into force, a certified true copy thereof shall be
transmitted by the Depositary to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for
registration and publication in accordance with Article 102 of the Charter of the United
Article 34 - Languages
This Convention is established in a single original in the Arabic, Chinese, English, French,
Russian and Spanish languages, each text being equally authentic.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned being duly authorized by
their respective Governments for that purpose have signed this
DONE AT LONDON this twenty-eighth day of April one thousand nine