Singapore’s accession to the International Salvage Convention is an important step, which will align the city state with other prominent maritime jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and China.
When the Salvage Convention becomes part of Singapore law under amendments to be made to the Singapore Merchant Shipping Act (1), it will enshrine into Singapore law a salvor’s right to recover expenses they have incurred in their attempts to prevent or minimize environmental damage, even if they are unable to salve the vessel or where the value remaining in the salved fund is insufficient. This type of recovery is referred to as “special compensation,” which is available under article 14 of the Salvage Convention and protects salvors against the traditional consequences of “No Cure, No Pay,” which depended entirely on the successful salvage of the maritime property. Article 14 is intended to incentivize salvors to invest and maintain the assets, in terms of salvage craft, equipment, and personnel, that are necessary to render prompt assistance to vessels in difficulty. This is vitally important, and mitigates against the risk of geographical regions having insufficient response capacity. Such a scenario could have a profoundly detrimental effect on local marine ecologies, particularly in the event of an oil spill. At a time when the number of professional salvors is declining, providing an assurance to salvors that they will not be left out of pocket is increasingly important.