What is wreck?

The Merchant Shipping Act 1995:

Finders of wreck must be aware that under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 there is a legal obligation to report all discoveries of wreck.
This page provides a summary of the main points of the Act. We strongly recommend that all other archaeological finds are recorded using the MAS but this is completely voluntary.

What objects qualify as wreck?

The following finds are defined as 'wreck' under the Act:

  • wreck material found in or on the sea
  • wreck material washed ashore in tidal waters
  • material recovered from a wreck site – regardless of age, size or apparent importance or value

Wreck material includes objects that have come from a ship, aircraft or hovercraft (vessels), and this could be parts of the vessel, its cargo or equipment. Wreck material can take many forms including:

  • portholes
  • bells
  • compasses
  • fixtures and fittings
  • personal belongings
  • cargo material
  • aircraft remains and associated debris
  • pottery and ceramics
  • coins
  • cannon

What objects do not qualify as wreck?

The following types of find are not 'wreck':

  • boats that have come off their moorings
  • buoys, for example marker or mooring buoys
  • unworked natural objects, including human and animal remains, if they are not found in association with wreck

If you are in any doubt, it is always safest to report your find to the Receiver of Wreck