19 March 2014

The UK shipping minister, Stephen Hammond MP, gave the keynote address at the International Salvage Union’s annual conference for its Associate Members. There was a full programme of speakers and panel discussions on topics related to the salvage industry particularly Arctic operations and container operations.

Mr Hammond told some 170 delegates that the UK and the European Union are tackling the issue of Places of Refuge for casualty vessels – a matter on which the ISU, along with the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Union of Marine Insurance, is campaigning.

Mr Hammond paid tribute to the salvage industry and said he recognised that specialist contractors provide the bulk of the marine casualty response capability and most of the technical expertise in emergency response. He went on to describe the evolution of the UK’s SOSREP system following the Sea Empress spill. He said that “salvage by committee” is ineffective and inefficient and that the SOSREP system allows for a single voice to over-ride other interested parties if necessary.

Mr Hammond said that the case of the MSC Flaminia in 2012 showed the need for guidelines on Places of Refuge and added that the UK SOSREP had recently been in Qatar to discuss the issue with regional representatives following the case of the Stolt Valor, also in 2012.

In concluding, Mr Hammond said that the success of the parbuckling of the Costa Concordia showed that the salvage industry is “innovative and capable of meeting the most demanding challenges at sea.”

ISU President, Leendert Muller, said: “We are privileged to have had Mr Hammond as a speaker at our event. The UK’s maritime emergency response decision making – through SOSREP – is admired around the world and we look forward to further developments in international attitudes to Places of Refuge.”