Every ship master, be he the captain ofa P. & O. line steamer or of the crankiest and most evil smelling tramp afloat onthe ocean, nurses the hope of some dayearning a small fortune by salvage work.
The high seas have in the past yielded upmany fat prizes in this way in the shape ofvaluable, but disabled, ocean liners, andnow there is somewhere in the vast expanseof the Indian Ocean, so it is thought anddevoutly hoped (apart from all thought ofpersonal gain), one of extra-high value, represented by the steamer Waratah. On Friday a well-known Melbourne nauticalman, who is an authority on such matters,estimated, for the benefit of the '"Age,"that the safe conveyance of the Waratahinto port would be worth to the rescuingship at the very least between £25,000 and£30,000. Of this sum the captain of therescuing vessel would receive from £1,500to £2,000, and his crew about £3,500 or£4,000, divided on the basis of seniorityand personal risk. "If that vessel istowed into port," he said, "the owners ofthe towing vessel will make a claim for salvage, asking a certain sum of money. Theowners of the Waratah and the underwriters will then discuss the claim, and if they think it is reasonable - very unlikely, thing, for the claims are always heavy - they will pay it. Perhaps each party will agree to submit it to arbitration, and abide by the result; but that it a rare procedure, and I think we will be safe in assuming that the matter will be tried before the Admiralty Court. The judge of that court has unlimited powers in the allotment of salvage. He considers first the value of the ship salved, and her cargo, then the value of the salving vessel and her cargo, the loss of time and coal by the salvingship, the extra work of her master andcrew, their risk during the tow accordingto the weather experienced, any damageshe may have sustained in collision withthe rescued steamer, loss of tow ropes, andin brief many other things, including expense to her owners. The salving may be a simple towage job in fine weather, or it may be a highly dangerous one in heavy gales, demanding much skill and risk, and skill and risk must be paid for. Of course the judge would not grant £90,000 salvage on a ship valued at £100,000. He mightas well hand over the ship.
"In the case of the Waikato, mentionedin your cable, which vessel was floating inthe Indian Ocean for 103 davs, £16,500salvage and costs was awarded by theAdmiralty Court to the tramp steamerAsloun, which towed her into Fremantle,and a claim by the owners of the barqueTacora, which rendered her assistance, andwas damaged in doing so, was settled outof court for £300 and costs. The Waikatowas valued at £44,000 for salvage purposes,and her cargo at £97,694. The consigneesof cargo, of course, pay their share of salvage, which is- collected by a general average being levied on all goods before delivery."