Friday, September 21, 2018

In Which FT Alphaville Takes On Sailing Yachts, Admiralty (Maritime) Law, and Dinghy Davits

From FT Alphaville:

A resident of New Bern, NC, may in fact have a new boat
On Wednesday, after flying to the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station in hurricane-hit North Carolina, the President drove a half-hour up the Neuse River to the town of New Bern, where among other things he spoke briefly with a homeowner who had discovered a sailboat leaning against his deck (from the day's pool report, emphasis ours):
Trump gazed at the yacht, saying, Is this your boat? The owner said no. Trump turned and replied with smile, At least you got a nice boat out of the deal... I think it's incredible what were seeing, the president added. This boat just came here. They don't know whose boat that is, he said. What's the law? Maybe it becomes theirs.
The president, the homeowner and the yacht led the day's coverage, mostly as an example of the offhand way Mr Trump handles interactions in public. Alphaville admits to a preoccupation with this story, having spent part of our childhood sailing up and down that very stretch of the Neuse River. But having looked into the laws around abandoned vessels in North Carolina, we are happy to report the following: The President may in fact be correct. It's entirely possible — though not likely — that a homeowner in New Bern ends up owning a boat.

Most private yachts are built out of fiberglass, which ensures that they 1) are cheap to make and buy and 2) will never rot. Junk fiberglass hulls are increasingly plentiful, hard to sell, expensive to scrap and therefore increasingly abandoned. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Debris Program is responsible for worrying about the problem in the U.S., but everyone and no one is responsible for paying for it. For coastal states, derelict boats show up exactly when there's the least amount of money to deal with them: after a hurricane, and during a recession. But unlike states like Washington or Maryland, North Carolina does not have specific laws for derelict private yachts, or dedicated funding to pay for removal.

It's a knotty problem, in essence unchanged for the last thousand years. Abandoned or sunken vessels and their cargo have value. But salvage — recovery — is expensive. So every marine salvage law since the Maritime Ordinances of Trani in 1063 has had to balance the rights of the owner against the costs incurred by the salvor and the state, which needs to get abandoned vessels out of marine channels, where they obstruct passage and therefore commerce.

Alphaville trusts that its readers understand the importance of passage and commerce...MUCH MORE
Like Ravel's Bolero it just keeps building and building until the tension becomes almost unbearable, only to be relieved by.... (not the dinghy davits)

Probably not at all related:

R.M.S. Titanic v. The Wrecked and Abandoned Vessel
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
April 12, 2002
Salvage/In Rem Action: R.M.S. Titanic, Inc. ("RMST") is the salvor-in-possession of the submerged wreck R.M.S. Titanic and artifacts salvaged from the wreck. But RMST's salvage lien in the artifacts has not converted to title in the artifacts. RMST must first complete the salvage service that it intends to perform and have its salvage reward determined. Only after its reward is determined can it seek to enforce the lien against the artifacts themselves.
Roux v Salvador
(1836) 3 Bing NC 266, 132 ER 413
4 Scott 1, 2 Hodges 209, 7 LJEx 328
1836 – November 15

Hides insured from Valparaiso to Bordeaux free of particular average, unless the ship were stranded, arriving at Rio Janeiro on their way to Bordeaux, in a state of incipient putridity, occasioned by a leak in the ship, were sold for a fourth of their value at Rio, because, by the process of putrefaction, they would have been destroyed before they could have arrived at Bordeaux. The assured received the news of the damage to the hides and of their sale, at the same time:...
Key salvage/insurance takeaway: if your hide is putrid, you're a total write-off.