Future and emerging trends in the world of salvage and wreck removal

Sam Kendall-Marsden, head of claims for The Standard Club, has given an insight into the future and emerging trends and significant issues in the world of salvage and wreck removal.

Mr Kendall-Marsden focuses on five key areas which are mega boxship casualties, waste management, technology, the changing nature of the salvage industry and wildcards.

1. Mega boxship casualties

This part focuses on casualties involving very large container vessels in which Mr Kendall-Masden articulates that the size increases the risk of accidents. A major casualty involving big vessels could easily lead to environmental disasters and significantly increase a company’s financial exposure.

The sheer size of these very large container ships – now in excess of 21,000 TEUs – amplifies the technical challenges faced in a salvage or wreck removal operation.

Moreover with the possibility of very large vessels running aground it would present many challenges for cranes trying to lift them. In addition, he says that if the ship were listing this would present an even greater challenge. Once the cargo is off there is then the additional challenge of where to process and store potentially thousands of sound and distressed containers.

Mr Kendall-Marsden says, “When people think of very large container ships, they generally think about the ship itself and the thousands of containers on board. But in terms of oil pollution, it is worth remembering that a very large container ship carries as many bunkers as a small tanker does with bunker tanks that may have a capacity of over 14,000m.

Whilst the risk of a catastrophic release of all bunkers on board should be remote, bunker removal costs are likely to be substantial.

A very large vessel after being salvaged looks for a port of refuge. It is sometimes hard to find a suitable port for the vessel’s type and size.

In a casualty involving a fire on board a very large container ship, significant volumes of firefighting water are likely to be required for extinguishing the fire and cooling. That water could affect the ship’s trim, stability and draft.

If the ship is aground, the firefighting water on board could also have a bearing on the ground reaction and the ship’s residual strength. If containers have ruptured and cargo escaped into the holds, the ability to pump out the water is likely to be compromised thus prolonging the operation.

2. Waste Management

There are numerous recent examples that show wreck removals resulting in major environmental disasters and marine pollution.

In the case of extinguishing the fire, firefighting water will become contaminated and will need to be pumped from the casualty and disposed of in an environmentally sensitive way. Consideration should be given to whether reception facilities are available locally and to what permits and permissions are required to transport, treat and dispose of the water. The more water used, the greater the scale of the issue.

Yet, the law for this issue is based on the Baseline Convention of 1992. According to the Convention it is important when in casualty cases to consider whether ‘waste’ has been generated, the classification of that waste and whether proposals for the movement and disposal of the waste comply with the Convention as incorporated into local law.

3. Technology

Although connectivity can bring advantages it also leads to delays in important decisions being taken, partly through undermining the authority and autonomy of the master who may be best placed to make the call.

Technological increases and advances lead to a better ability on detecting pollutants.

4. The Changing Nature of the Salvage Industry

Mr Kendall-Marsden feels that the salvage industry doesn’t do much to diversify itself. For instance, there is currently only one female Special Casualty Representative on a panel that is nearly 50 strong.

There’s also the emergence of different players threatening the dominance of the traditional salvors in wreck removal operations.

5. Wildcards

a. Predatory Pricing
There are examples of salvage operations where they are offered for SCOPIC rates and not commercial ones.
b. Equipment
There’s a decline in the investment in heavy salvage and wreck removal equipment on the part of the salvage industry.
c. IMO 2020
Some shipowners have chosen to fit exhaust gas scrubbers and continue to burn regular heavy fuel oil whilst others switch to low sulphur fuel.

Mr Kendall-Marsden concludes by saying, “I think that despite improvements in safety we are likely to see wreck removal costs continuing to increase. The influence and involvement of the authorities will continue to be an important factor, driven by environmental concerns and greater visibility through modern news media. Advances in technology will provide solutions where perhaps none existed before and this, too, is likely to increase costs”.

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