Towage And Salvage

Salvage and Towage are two concepts widely known in the maritime world, nowadays offering employment to many specialized professionals.

Prior to the emergence of power-moved vessels, towage was considered an operation of one vessel towing another -in distress- vessel. As ship development moved forward, towage became more commercial, with businesses established mainly in ports and rivers. Various size vessels required towing, so tug fleets became more versatile to adapt to every need, even salvage. Some of these tug owners focused their business on salving ships in distress, thus the concept of salvage emerged.

In modern days misconceptions between salvage and towage, have been the spark of ignition between shipowners and tugowners, especially since their relationship became contractual.

The scope of this paper is to illustrate the ways in which salvage and towage are different. The work of law experts was studied as well as a number of law cases, which assist in drawing useful conclusions.


The concept of salvage entails the provision of assistance to a maritime property, mainly a ship, cargo or both which is facing a potential threat, officially described as “danger”; the main point differentiating salvage from towage. Danger, referring to either a present or a potential hazardous situation, has to be evidenced in court by the salvor in order for a claim to be considered as a salvage claim (Institute of Maritime Law, 2008, p.186).

A lawful salvage claim must describe a voluntary service, and also a “place of safety” which the salved vessel has reached in order for the salvage services to be concluded (Baughen, 2012). This location can be agreed upon between the contracting...

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...has happened in numerous common law cases, with most of them featuring disputes between the contracting parties on salvage superseding towage. It is worth mentioning “The Homewood” (1928), a case of a steamship, engaged in a towage contract, breaking free from her tow because of adverse weather. As a result her crew was rescued into a lifeboat and the vessel drifted crewless, however the tug resumed with the towage. The fact that the steamship’s crew were rescued and that the vessel itself had no one on board was considered a “present danger”, entitling the tug to salvage compensation (Mandaraka-Sheppard, 2009, p.726).

Lastly, another difference is that a tugowner cannot have a maritime lien on the tow for the prefixed towage payment; however salvors have that right, since salvage claims have the backing of maritime liens (Institute of Maritime Law, 2008, p.185).

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