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After Hurricane Matthew: When Storm Debris Is Personal Property – Not Salvage

On November 3rd, 2016, Attorney Thomas Winslow was quoted in a Coastal Observer news story.

Being an attorney who is well-versed within Maritime Law, Tom explains that while a ship or boat may be considered as salvage when lost, personal property still ultimately belongs to its rightful owner.

After the second instance where police had found people collecting storm debris from the area around Prince George in Pawleys Island – one man using a helicopter to retrieve items and another salvaging kayaks he found – Tom weighed in:

“They are salvage, but that doesn’t give you ownership. They have to return it to you.”

“Under maritime law the salvager could claim payment for his expenses and a salvage fee, usually 5 percent of the boat’s value. If the owner doesn’t want to pay, the salvager can file a lien in magistrate’s court. If the owner is unknown the salvager should notify the police to try to find him.

As for docks, those aren’t vessels, but they have owners and those owners have the right to retrieve them. They may need to obtain permission if they float to someone else’s property. And as for the use of helicopters, even the airspace above your property is your space.”

Read the full story here.

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