Department for Transport

in relation to wreck finds

Receiver of Wreck's remit
The Receiver of Wreck's remit is set down in the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, Part IX, Chapters 1-2. It covers wreck from UK territorial waters, and wreck landed in the UK from outside UK territorial waters.

The Receiver's remit extends to tidal waters in the UK, so does not cover lakes for instance.

Duty & Rights of Receiver of Wreck
To give legal owners the opportunity of recovering their property, and to ensure that a salvage award is paid to the legal salvor, when due. The Receiver of Wreck will recover any costs incurred from the public purse.

Duty & Rights of Salvor
On recovering wreck material, the finder should declare it promptly (where possible within 28 days) to the Receiver of Wreck giving a description of the wreck and will usually be asked to hold it to the Receiver's order. A salvor acting properly under the law is entitled to a salvage award.

Duty & Rights of Owner
The owner of any wreck must prove ownership to the satisfaction of the Receiver within one year. On payment of expenses and an appropriate salvage award, the owner is entitled to have his or her property returned.

Unclaimed Wreck
Wreck from UK waters which remains unclaimed at the end of one year, becomes the property of the Crown (or grantee of the Crown such as the Duchy of Cornwall). Any person entitled to unclaimed wreck must provide evidence of entitlement to the satisfaction of the Receiver. If wreck from UK territorial waters is unclaimed at the end of one year, the Receiver will dispose of the find on behalf of the Crown. If wreck from outside UK territorial waters is unclaimed at the end of one year, the Crown makes no claim, and the material is returned to the finder.

Salvage award
The value of the salvage award is based on the value of the find (pre-conservation), but cannot exceed the value of the find. Up to 3 evaluations may be gathered from independent valuers. The cost of any valuations must be met from the salvage award. The value of the award is calculated using criteria set out in the International Convention on Salvage 1989.

The Receiver of Wreck has since 1993 concentrated on a strong educational drive. This was followed by the Wreck Amnesty in 2001 which allowed finders to report previously undeclared finds without fear of prosecution. In conjunction with a continued and more focused education programme, the Receiver of Wreck intends to undertake monitoring of activities and when illegal activity is suspected, will not hesitate to take action to enforce the law.

Historic Wreck Material
The Receiver of Wreck recognises the importance of archaeologically and historically significant material and is committed to trying to keep collections together and on display in a public museum, preferably in a location close to the find site.

MCA advocates and promotes safe, legal and responsible diving practices

This document is intended as a summary and should not be considered definitive