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Practical knowledge of sailing and handling ships in rough weather was crucial for salvors and the use of divers important to many salvage operations. Divers assisted in locating, assessing and repairing damage to vessels, securing ropes and wires and so on. In 1842 SVITZER bought a closed diving suit enabling deeper and longer dives. Diving expertise was gained by experience and it was not unusual to suffer from symptoms of diver’s disease. Knowledge of this disease was not well developed at the time and symptoms were hard to avoid. Decompression tanks and timetables for diving in deeper water were not available until the beginning of the 20th century. To succeed in salvage, operational experience and technical expertise had to go hand in hand with business acumen. Salvage contracts were made on a ‘no cure – no pay’ basis and salvage awards determined by the maritime courts once the ship was safely in port, based on valuations of both ship and cargo by the insurance company. Typically the salvage award was settled as a certain percentage of the rescued values taking into account the salvors’ work and the risk undertaken. Em. Z. Svitzer had a good eye for valuing wrecks based on his experience in the timber trade and he often bought salvaged goods cheaply at auction to sell on. The timber business offered a stable platform to undertake the more unpredictable salvage business, which carried high economic risks and uncertain income. THE BEGINNING OF A NEW ERA Em. Z. Svitzer had succeeded in his attempt to create a professional salvage business from scratch and the company quickly gained recognition in Danish waters. As the business started to grow, SVITZER acquired new cutters and expanded. From a base at Trekroner – a fort just at the entrance to the port of Copenhagen – salvage cutters assisted vessels in and beyond Copenhagen. By 1850 SVITZER was becoming recognised as a competent salvage company and was well placed to adapt to the challenges of the industrial and technological revolution to come. Custom House of the Sound around 1840. Ships had to pay a special tax to pass the Sound. This was unpopular due not only to the costs but also the delay that the time-consuming tax system caused. Tax collectors had to board the vessel and register all the cargo to estimate the tax. In 1832 more than 12,000 ships passed the Sound. In 1857 the Sound tax was stopped as a consequence of pressure from the international shipping community. S V I T Z E R – S A F E T Y A N D S U P P O R T AT S E A 17


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