Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 7, 1911
File No. 585.7A2/262.
The American Delegates to the Third International Conference on Maritime Law to the Secretary of State.
Sir: I have the honor to inclose the report of the American delegates upon the convention relating to salvage adopted by the Third International Conference on Maritime Law on September 23, 1910.2
I have, etc.,
Report of the American Delegation on the Convention Relating to Salvage.
To the honorable the Secretary of State:
The delegates of the United States designated to attend the reconvening of the Third International Conference on Maritime Law at Brussels on September 12, 1910, have the honor to report:
In accordance with our instructions from the Department of State, we attended and participated in the sessions and deliberations of the reconvened conference. Mr. Gaston de Leval, the Belgian advocate who assisted us at the last session, again aided us as counsel, and we desire to express our appreciation of his services.
At the opening of the conference we stated that we were authorized to sign the convention relating to collisions with certain reservations and that we were authorized to sign without reservations the convention relating to salvage. At the same time we stated that under the Constitution of the United States of America no treaty can become effective until approved by the Senate.
On September 23, 1910, we signed the convention relating to the law of salvage, making one reservation as follows:
The Government of the United States of America declares that it reserves the right to adhere to said convention and to denounce it for the insular possessions of the United States of America.
Annexed hereto is a translation of the convention, which is identical with that adopted by the British delegates.3 No official translation of the convention was made or authorized by the conference.
The convention on salvage makes few changes in our own or the British law except that article 5 provides that “remuneration is due notwithstanding that the salvage services have been rendered by or to vessels belonging to the same owner.” This provision will permit the officers and crew of a salving vessel to [Page 15] recover for their services notwithstanding identity of ownership. It will also affect the right of subrogation of underwriters. The provision would, of course, apply only in a limited number of cases; but we deemed the provision just and unobjectionable.
- Article 9 contains a reasonable provision for salvors of human life, limiting the recovery, however, to cases where property also has been salved.
- Article 10 prescribes a limitation period of two years for bringing suits for salvage.
Awaiting your further instructions, we have the honor to be, sir,
Your obedient servants,
- Walter C. Noyes.
- Charles C. Burlingham.
- Edwin W. Smith.
- A. J. Montague.
Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law in Regard to Assistance and Salvage at Sea,
Assistance and salvage of seagoing vessels in danger of any things on board, of freight and passage money and also services of the same nature rendered to each other by seagoing vessels and vessels of inland navigation are subject to the following provisions, without any distinction being drawn between the two kinds of service and in whatever waters the services have been rendered.
Every act of assistance or salvage which has had a useful result gives a right to equitable remuneration. No remuneration is due if the services rendered have no beneficial result. In no case shall the sum to be paid exceed the value of the property salved.
Persons who have taken part in salvage operations, notwithstanding the express and reasonable prohibition on the part of the vessel to which services were rendered, have no right to any remuneration.
A tug has no right to remuneration for assistance to or salvage of the vessel she is towing or of the vessel’s cargo except where she has rendered exceptional services which can not be considered as rendered in fulfilment of the contract of towage.
Remuneration is due notwithstanding that the salvage services have been rendered by or to vessels belonging to the same owner.
The amount of remuneration is fixed by agreement between the parties and, failing agreement, by the court.
The proportion in which the remuneration is to be distributed among the salvors is fixed in the same manner.
The apportionment of the remuneration among the owner, master, and other persons in the service of each salving vessel is determined by the law of the vessel’s flag.
Every agreement as to assistance or salvage entered into at the moment and under the influence of danger can, at the request of either party, be annulled or modified by the court if it considers that the conditions agreed upon are not equitable.
In all cases, when it is proved that the consent of one of the parties is vitiated by fraud or concealment, or when the remuneration is, in proportion to the services [Page 16] rendered, in an excessive degree too large or too small, the agreement may be annulled or modified by the court at the request of the party affected.
The remuneration is fixed by the court, according to the circumstances of each case, on the basis of the following considerations: (a) First, the measure of success obtained, the efforts and the deserts of the salvors, the danger run by the salved vessel, by her passengers, crew, and cargo, by the salvors and by the salving vessel, the time expended, the expenses incurred and losses suffered, and -the risks of liability and other risks run by the salvors, and also the value of the property exposed to such risks, due regard being had, the case arising, to the special adaptation of the salvor’s vessel; (b) second, the value of the property salved.
The same provisions apply to the apportionment provided for by the second paragraph of article 6.
The court may reduce or deny remuneration if it appears that the salvors have by their fault rendered the salvage or assistance necessary, or have been guilty of theft, receiving stolen goods, or other acts of fraud.
No remuneration is due from the persons whose lives are saved, but nothing in this article shall affect the provisions of the national laws on this subject.
Salvors of human life who have taken part in the services rendered on the occasion of the accident, giving rise to salvage or assistance, are entitled to a fair share of the remuneration awarded to the salvors of the vessel, her cargo, and accessories.
A salvage action is barred after an interval of two years from the day on which the operations of assistance or salvage are terminated.
The grounds upon which the said period of limitation may be suspended or interrupted are determined by the law of the court where the case is tried.
The high contracting parties reserve to themselves the right to provide by legislation in their respective countries that the said periods shall be extended in cases where it has not been possible to arrestthe vessel assisted or salved in the territorial waters of the State in which the plaintiff has his domicile or principal place of business.
Every master is bound, so far as he can do so without serious danger to his vessel, her crew, and passengers, to render assistance to everybody, even though an enemy, found at sea in danger of being lost.
The owner of the vessel incurs no liability by reason of contravention of the foregoing provision.
The high contracting parties whose legislation does not forbid infringements of the preceding article bind themselves to take or to propose to their respective legislatures the measures necessary for the prevention of such infringements.
The high contracting parties will communicate to one another, as soon as possible, the laws or regulations which have already been or may be hereafter promulgated in their States for the purpose of giving effect to the above undertakings.
The convention does not affect the provisions of national laws or international treaties as regards the organization of services of assistance and salvage by or under the control of public authorities, nor, in particular, does it affect such laws or treaties on the subject of the salvage of fishing gear.
This convention does not apply to ships of war or to Government ships appropriated exclusively to a public service.
The provisions of this convention shall be applied as regards all persons interested when either the assisting or salving vessel or the vessel assisted or salved [Page 17] belongs to one of the contracting States, and in any other cases for which the national laws provide.
Provided always, that:
- As regards persons interested who belong to a noncontracting State the application of said provisions may be made subject by each of the contracting States to the condition of reciprocity.
- Where all the persons interested belong to the same State as the court trying the case, the provisions of the national law and not of the convention are applicable.
- Without prejudice to any wider provisions of any national laws, article 11 only applies as between vessels belonging to the States of the high contracting parties.
Any one of the high contracting parties shall have the right three years after this convention comes into force to call for a fresh conference with a view to seeking such ameliorations as may be brought therein, and particularly with a view to extending, if possible, the sphere of its application.
Any power exercising this right must notify its intention to the other powers, through the Belgian Government, which will see to the convening of the conference within six months.
States which have not signed the convention are allowed to adhere to it on request. Such adhesion shall be notified through the diplomatic channel to the Belgian Government and by the latter to each of the other Governments. It shall become effective one month after the sending of the notification by the Belgian Government.
The convention shall be ratified.
After an interval of at most one year from the day on which the convention is signed, the Belgian Government shall place itself in communication with the Governments of the high contracting parties which have declared themselves prepared to ratify the convention with a view to deciding whether it is expedient to put into force.
The ratifications shall, if so decided, be deposited forthwith at Brussels, and the convention shall come into force a month afterwards.
The protocol shall remain open another year in favor of the States represented at the Brussels Conference. After this interval they can only adhere to it on conforming to the provisions of article 17.
In the case of one or other of the high contracting parties denouncing this convention, such denunciation should not take effect until a year after the day on which it has been notified to the Belgian Government, and the convention would remain in force as between the other contracting parties.
In witness whereof the plenipotentiaries of the respective high contracting parties have signed this convention and have affixed their seals thereto.