Located in the Midwest was a distribution warehouse that contained all types of janitorial supplies. The warehouse and many of the supplies had been damaged by fire, but many of the damaged items were good as salvageable merchandise. One item in particular that posed a potential disposal problem was urinal sanitizers – in slang, “urinal biscuits” or “hockey pucks”. Approximately two trailer loads of this product had been broken and dislodged from their original packaging, rendering them unusable for their intended purpose. Due to the chemical nature of this product, they were considered a hazardous waste and, if dumped, had to be dumped in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines. Estimated dumping charges were in excess of $100,000.
The insured had requested that these urinal sanitizers be properly dumped due to the potential liability with the chemicals involved. After researching the product and assessing potential outlets, we advised the insured that we had an outlet for these crumbled biscuits. Not only could we save the $100,000 dump charge, but we could provide a recovery.
The urinal sanitizers were sold to a large grain company, which used the broken and crumbled pieces around their grain elevators to control pests and rodents. The salvor had taken an item that was deemed unusable and environmentally unfriendly and turned the “problem” into a “win-win” situation for all parties involved. What needs to be understood is that the salvor works on a commission basis, and all situations challenge the salvor to dispose of damaged goods at the highest price. The more money that the sale brings, the more money the insured and the salvor retain.
Located in the State of Arkansas, a large rice mill suffered a catastrophe involving approximately 12,000 tons of milled white rice that had been contaminated with broken glass. The origin and exact amount of glass in the rice were unknown and undeterminable. Even the most precise filtering and screening could not remove all the glass from the rice. The potential liability was extraordinary, and in no way could this rice be sold for human consumption. Even pet food was not an option, as the manufacturers of pet food did not want to take on the risk of glass in their product, as the liability from potentially hurting one of their customers’ pets was too extreme.
The insured had stated to us that it could not envision any outlet for this contaminated rice. Not only was the glass an obstacle, but also, the sheer volume of contaminated product offered a tremendous challenge. After assessing all potential outlets for disposal, we located a crawfish hatchery in Louisiana that could use the rice for crawfish food. The rice would be spread across crawfish ponds. Both the rice and glass would sink to the bottom, where the crawfish would eat the rice and leave the glass. Of course, it will take a long time to dispose of such a large quantity, but the bottom line is that not only could the rice be disposed, a large salvage recovery was obtained.
During a major hurricane, one of the many losses involved a feminine sanitary napkin manufacturer. The water damage was somewhat minimal, but due to the health and potential liability factors, the product could not be sold for its intended purpose. One might think, “What can one do with thousands of water-contaminated feminine pads”. Well, we were able to locate a large regional gas station/car wash chain that bough the sanitary napkins and used them for cleaning pads on cars. They were very effective due to their absorbency and disposability.
Again, the loss was minimized, and the returns were maximized. A product damaged in such a way that it could not be used for its intended purpose was taken to an unexpected outlet. Not only did the insured get a recovery, but also the buyer was able to substitute its usual inventory with a new, reduced-cost alternative. In addition, the damaged product could be used before being disposed, thus being environmentally friendlier.
Many people may remember the large hotel fires that occurred in Las Vegas in the 1980s. We were commissioned to inventory and dispose of all fire and smoke damaged contents in these hotels. These fires created a major hardship for the casinos, as they were losing potential revenue at an enormous rate. The business interruption was one of the major monetary factors, and all the involved contractors were working as fast as possible to restore the hotel to full availability.
The number of elevators was limited, and the hotels wanted to keep the inconvenience to the guests to a minimum. In order to maximize the use of the elevators for moving the damaged furniture, we opted to work at night from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. The hotel could continue to use its elevators during the day, while the contractors took advantage of the minimal guest usage at night. This unusual, but not necessarily unique, behavior illustrates how salvors are sometimes forced to adapt to the conditions as a chameleon adapts to its environment by changing colors. The salvor must take a crisis situation and effectively manage it by solving the problems, while not creating additional problems.
In New Orleans, LA, during a storm, a flour storage facility had been damaged, and the flour had been contaminated to a point that it could not be used for human or animal consumption. Several thousand tons were involved, and the removal time was extremely critical to the insured.
The lumber industry is an important part of that region’s economy. After a thorough search for a place to sell this contaminated flour, we located a lumber mill that could use it as an ingredient in glue that would be used as an adhesive in plywood sheets.
The salvor’s role was not only to dispose of this product, but also to confirm the amount of flour that had been located in the involved facility and remove the product. Again, potential dump charges were eliminated, and money was returned to the insured for a product thought to be worthless.
The salvor takes many roles, from a consultant to a “salvage man”. In times and instances like this, the salvor must be creative because the solution to the problem may not be the obvious.
One of the biggest, but often overlooked, roles of a salvor is the consultant side. Because salvors are constantly around disastrous situations, they have the experience of knowing what will or will not work. In addition, the salvor brings a wide range of interpretations to the table. To the insured, the initial appearance of a crisis is that the product is damaged and needs to be replaced. The insured is in the business of selling its fully functional, undamaged product, not one damaged by fire or water.
In one particular case, we had traveled to South America with a representative from a major insurer and the insured. The disaster consisted of a large chicken hatchery and farm that had been afflicted with a major plague of thousands of chickens dying from a disease known as “black vomit”. We had been involved, as one of our specialties is grain and feed commodities. Unfortunately, the insured was not covered for this event, so we were retained for our knowledge in the industry and asked if we could provide any helpful insight.
After viewing the situation and obtaining a sample of dead chickens, we requested a sample of the feed that was being used by the insured. We had the feed sent to several laboratories and universities and were able to determine that the feed was contaminated and contained improper ingredients for the insured’s conditions. The insured had not considered this potential cause, and in turn, we were able to provide the insured with data that it could use in successfully subrogating against its feed supplier.
In this case, the salvor did not even perform an inventory or dispose of salvage, but instead, the salvor was able to use its experience and expertise in providing beneficial information to the insured.