The International Salvage Union

The International Salvage Union (ISU) is the sole representative organisation for the international marine salvage industry with a membership of 60 marine salvage companies from 34 different countries. Membership of the ISU is restricted to those companies with a record of successful salvage and pollution prevention. Members are expected to consistently demonstrate a high level of expertise associated with the professional salvor and conduct their activities ethically and in accordance with the ISU Code of Conduct.

In addition, Associate Membership of the ISU is open to all organisations and professionals with an interest in salvage, including P&I Clubs, other marine insurers, marine law firms, marine consultancies, national response organisations, environmental organisations, clean-up specialists and others. The ISU has over 80 Affiliated and Associate Members.

The ISU has an important role as the prime mover in many legal and commercial developments concerning marine salvage. It is a member of the Lloyd’s Salvage Group and SCOPIC Committee. It has consultative status at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPC) and the Comité Maritime International (CMI).

The ISU liaises with and meets with many organisations on a regular basis, including the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) The European Tugowners’ Association (ETA), INTERTANKO, BIMCO (all ISU affiliated organisations), the International Group of P&I Clubs, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the London Admiralty Solicitors’ Group, the United States Coast Guard, and the European Community.

One of the ISU’s primary objectives is to foster a wider understanding of the salvage industry’s contribution to environmental protection and the salvage of ship casualties, cargoes and other marine property. The ISU also plays an active role in encouraging inter-industry debate concerning the many legal and commercial issues influencing the efficient performance of salvage and pollution prevention services.

The ISU Secretariat is based in London.

The International Marine Salvage Industry

The international marine salvage industry provides essential services to the world’s maritime and insurance communities. The main roles of the industry are protection of the environment and mitigation of any losses suffered by shipowners and their insurers.

Members are engaged in marine casualty response, pollution defence, wreck removal, cargo recovery, towage and related activities. The principles of salvage and salvage law have evolved over many centuries. A fundamental concept is that the salvor should be encouraged by the prospect of an appropriate salvage award to intervene in any casualty situation to salve the ship, property and, in particular, to save life and prevent pollution. The salvor’s right to a reward is based on natural equity, which allows the salvor to participate in the benefit conferred to shipowner, the ship itself and the ship’s cargo.

Salvors will always respond to a casualty no matter the circumstances or the challenges that they face. They have a reputation for innovation and success as demonstrated by high profile casualties such as the ‘Costa Concordia’ off Italy.

The marine salvage industry is going through a period of change with a decline in emergency response and Lloyd’s Open Form contracts which is balanced with an increase in wreck removal operations. Consolidation of the industry is also taking place through mergers and acquisitions and some salvors are reducing their capability to focus on other maritime activities. However, the decline in capability is not significant when taken in the context of global capability.

One of the main challenges facing the industry is the increase in vessel size, particularly in container ships, LNG carriers, ore carriers and passenger ships. These new mega-ships will be difficult to salvage due to their sheer size. However, salvors will always respond and provide a solution to owners and insurers.