Skuld has reported “a slight uptick” in the number of cases concerning salvage services in the Turkish Straits region. Circumstances where the insurer had seen this happen were particularly where the vessel was unable to maintain the minimum required speed of 4 knots, a requirement set out in Article 13 of the Regulations. The issue appeared to be particularly prevalent in the Bosphorus Straits, where the currents could be strong.
Skuld said that, where minimum speed was not maintained, It had seen tug assistance being quickly provided, “whether requested or not”. This was then followed by an expensive salvage claim being made by the tug owners.
“From what we see, when this happens, the Master is often unaware of the exact nature of the ‘services’ being provided by the tugs when a line is passed on board and which may in part be due to the nature of discussions between pilots, VTS and the tugs, being in Turkish”, said Skuld.
Skuld was therefore advising and reminding owners and masters to be aware of the Regulations that apply to these passages and to be alert to situations where tug assistance might be offered or provided.
Equally important was to ensure that the vessel was fit to comply with all the regulations, including sufficient engine power, before the transit commenced.
Skuld’s correspondent recommended that, if there was any doubt, it might be prudent to engage the services of a tug company on commercial terms at the beginning of the passage. Although this would be a fixed increased cost to the voyage, it might pay dividends if a costly salvage was avoided as a result, with the concomitant delays that might come with this whilst securities were collected and/or other delays. Skuld understood that salvage awards had recently been as high as 7% of the salved value, which was an increase on previous years.
Skuld noted that, as a P&I club, while it would like to be notified of such an incident, it was not necessarily always directly involved, at least not initially, as any salvage award would usually be settled as between the interests in the marine adventure, usually owners (H&M), cargo, bunker interests and the salvors.
“However, P&I responds when cargo interests then seek to recover their portion of the award or sums paid in General Average, by alleging a breach of the contract of carriage (usually allegations of unseaworthiness)”, said Skuld.
Skuld therefore has a direct interest in ensuring that the members preserve all evidence relating to any incident. In these circumstances the insurer recommended that the VDR data is ‘saved’ and particularly, audio recordings, which might be key to defending such a claim. “Such information may even assist in arguing that the nature of the services provided by tugs was not salvage at all, although that may not always be easy”, said Skuld, which thanked Captain Ibrahim Dogan of Kalimbassieris Maritime AS for his input.