Crewmen Under Contract to Professional Salvor May Claim Salvage Award–Nicholas E. Vernicos Shipping Co. v. United States

Several United States Navy store ships imperiled during a violent squall off the Greek coast were aided by two tugs outfitted with special salvage equipment and owned by Greek companies terming themselves professional salvors. The tug crewmen were the firms’ fulltime employees; they were expected to undertake salvage work when available and to engage in ordinary harbor towing between salvage operations. The owners sued the United States on behalf of themselves and their crews to recover compensation for assisting the Navy. The district court, finding that the store ships had been rendered a salvage service, made separate awards to the owners and to each crewman aboard the Greek vessels during the operation. On appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, held, affirmed. The crewmen of a vessel owned by a professional salvor who engage in salvage on a regular but non-exclusive basis may receive modest salvage awards when the “conscience of admiralty” is moved to grant them.