Posted by Rick Fernandes

Let me tell you a little story about an amazing program we call HECSALV. Once upon a time, it was designed specifically for salvage engineering. Not for designing ships or other related naval architecture and marine engineering tasks – although it does a pretty damn good job at those too. In fact, we use it here all the time for day-to-day, non-emergency engineering jobs. More about it here and future posts. But back to the point:


“…the magic of HECSALV…”


I remember back in the early 90’s how my boss, Capt. Bruce Banks (JMS Chairman) used to refer to this salvage engineering software that way. I thought I understood what he meant back then. Certainly, computers and their programs allow us to do what we can already do, just a heck of a lot faster. But back in Bruce’s Navy days, in that Navy’s world of salvage, no such computer program existed. Bruce helped design HECSALV after he retired and founded JMS. More about the roots or seed of that great idea later…


Until that time though, “salvage” was primarily a wreck removal term. Think of Pearl Harbor, the massive harbor clearance efforts of the Suez Canal and even the Exxon Valdez. Many others can be mentioned. Many of them wreck removals.


Salvage is still wreck removal, but now because of this amazing tool “salvage” now means, “marine casualty response”.




Until that time, there was not much a salvage master could do to “stabilize” a marine casualty -vessel grounding, structural failure, flooding, loss of stability, etc. – to stabilize before things turned worse; turned “wreck”. Too often there simply was not enough time to perform the tremendous labor and engineer-hour intensive, the multitude of engineering measurements and calculations necessary to diagnose and alleviate the stresses on a vessel in distress. The know-how was there, but not the computing power.


Then and now, most incidents from our experience don’t begin as “total loss”. They just get that way…eventually. Time: time to respond, how to respond properly and in time, are key.


So from my boss’s perspective, in a sense, HECSALV was the rabbit finally out of the hat. It was the feat he’d all been waiting for. HECSALV not only redefined salvage, it expanded the term.


HECSALV. What a great idea. There’s definitely more to talk about. See you at Part 2.
By Professional Mariner Staff