The Development of Environmental Salvage and Review of The London Salvage Convention 1989

Archie Bishop | Essay

In the later part of the twentieth century, the world developed an environmental conscience, and today, there is little that is not affected by our concern for the environment. The environment’s biggest enemy has undoubtedly been pollution, and any form of pollution has become abhorrent to the public eye. The marine world has not escaped the resultant pressure, and environmental concerns have given rise to many international conventions that impose strict civil liability and increase criminal liability. The effect of this growing concern about the marine environment has not escaped commercial salvors. Today, there is hardly a salvage operation that is not driven by environmental concerns. Recent casualties–such as the NAPOLI, the CHITRA, the RENA, and, very recently, the COSTA CONCORDIA–illustrate this prominence of environmental concerns in salvage operations.

So how has the environment affected international salvage law? The answer is “quite a lot,” for it was concern for the environment that gave rise to the International Convention on Salvage, 1989 (London Salvage Convention). In many respects, the London Salvage Convention has worked well, but the salvage industry believes more needs to be done to bring the Convention up to speed. The Convention is in need of review. To understand why, it is necessary to first examine how salvage law has developed.