'Marine Salvage' is explained in detail and with examples in the Laws & Regulations edition of the Herold Financial Dictionary, which you can get from Amazon in Ebook or Paperback edition.
Marine salvage operates as a special part of the law that has to do with the many international treaties as well as conventions that pertain to recovering goods and vessels which disappear in the sea. There are many reasons why ships and good could simply vanish in the ocean or sea. Among these is a breakdown of navigational equipment, unexpected bad weather, piracy, or forced sinking of the ship. Those who work in this salvage industry try to recover lost goods at a profit.
There are many different rules and laws pertaining to such salvage rights at sea. This depends in which jurisdiction the wreck or lost goods are discovered. It is why there are two main kinds of salvage which the various operators work under, pure salvage and contract salvage.
Pure salvage operators do not work with a contract. They are more like modern day treasure hunters. They cause the most problems as the original owners try to regain control over their property once it has been liberated from the depths. Such issues as the legal rights’ owners hang over the odds of making money in this business. Professional salvage operators must have a full understanding of the law which governs the recovery of ships and goods in the waters where they operate. Otherwise, they will be unable to secure the rights to gain from any rescued goods, ships, or other valuable equipment.
The other types of salvage workers operate as contract salvage professionals. They attempt to earn a set percentage or finder’s fee from the recovery of property which has effectively been lost at sea. The efforts at recovery are contracted directly between the original owner of the property and the company performing the salvage. This means that there is far less chance of a disagreement breaking out between the two parties.
In practice, it also releases both of the parties from needing a thorough comprehension of the laws of marine salvage of the governing authority which has jurisdiction over the territorial waters in question. The only thing the salvage operation really needs to have a handle on pertains to the laws which govern the operation of international laws in the sea region.
The world’s earliest known internationally accepted marine laws originated in Rhodes, a (modern day) Greek island off the coast of Turkey. This independent maritime power promoted a set of international conventions that were accepted throughout the Hellenistic and Roman worlds eventually. The two historical literatures of the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire reference and reprint the Rhodian Laws.
This historical precedent for a common “law of the sea” is important because the admiralty laws which internationally influential nations like Great Britain, Italy, and the United States use were co-opted by these same imperial powers. This means they became the internationally accepted standards for the modern world. Such admiralty laws have to do with the business dealings and understandings which are instrumental in those operations of the sea and salvage. They also pertain to the international laws of the sea as well.
It is interesting that not only professional divers take part in the range of marine salvage operations around the world. Novice divers also take a hand in such salvage projects. Regardless of their status personally or professionally, the same international laws mandate that they must honor the jurisdictional and commonly accepted rules. This means that private divers hunting for sunken treasure off of Mexico’s coast will have to abide by the identical maritime laws which professional divers working the international deep seas will.
It is true that a great number of the marine salvage laws are identical in the majority of the countries in the world today. This interesting fact resulted from the near universal adaptation of a range of international conventions. Still, it is true that every legal jurisdiction has its own variations on the common standard of where, when, and how salvage operators can realize profits in their pure salvage endeavors.