PORTLAND, Maine — The owner of a New Hampshire vessel that rescued a drifting lobster boat in February is asking a federal court to award him $200,000.
The company Amy Philbrick LLC of Newington, N.H., which operates the offshore lobster boat Amy Philbrick, filed a lawsuit May 8 against the fishing vessel Xtreme Measures and its owner, Jason Hooper of Spruce Head.
The suit enforces a salvage claim against the 42-foot lobster boat, which broke from its Spruce Head mooring during a blizzard in February. There had been no sighting of the boat for 10 days when the crew of the Philbrick spotted it about 150 miles from where it broke free.
The Amy Philbrick towed Hooper’s custom-built boat to Portsmouth, N.H.,
and held the vessel until Hooper posted bond to cover potential salvage costs.
This is not the first time the Philbrick has gone to court for salvage rights.
In 2007, a federal court ordered the 41-foot sailboat Niobe to be sold at a public auction after its sailor was swept overboard, setting the boat adrift. The Philbrick came to its rescue. Proceeds from the sale were to go toward a $25,000 payment to the Amy Philbrick LLC.
Attorney Stephen Ouellette of Gloucester, Mass., who represents the Amy Philbrick, said the basis of the maritime law on salvage goes back hundreds of years.
If a person saves the property of another person they automatically acquire a lien and can take custody of the vessel that was rescued until the salvage fee is paid. The owner of the rescued vessel can post a bond as the matter goes through court.
Hooper’s insurance company posted a $200,000 bond in March and XTreme Measures has been returned.
Ouellette said Hooper’s insurance company likely will pay the fee. The fee is based on factors such as the threat of damage to the rescued vessel, the risk to the people salvaging the vessel and the value of the salvaged boat.
The attorney pointed out that if a tugboat prevents an oil tanker from grounding that would have resulted in significant pollution, a salvage fee could be astronomical.
Hooper could not be reached for comment Friday.