The wreck process

What should I do if I find something that may be wreck?

You must report all finds of wreck to the Receiver of Wreck (RoW) within 28 days of the recovery. The obligation to report finds applies to everyone, including archaeologists.

How do I report a find of wreck?

You may report your find to the RoW by submitting a completed Report of Wreck and Salvage form. Once you have completed the form, you’ll need to print it out and sign it. You’ll also need someone to witness your signature and then ask them to sign the form. Send the completed form to the RoW.

The MAS supports this process by digitally generating a form and sending it to the finder’s email address and a copy also goes to the RoW.

Where will I have to take my find?

You will usually be asked to hold recovered material to the RoW’s order.

What if I do not report a find of wreck?

The penalty for not reporting a find that you believe (or there is good evidence for believing) to be wreck, without a reasonable excuse, is a fine of up to £2,500 per offence, plus loss of salvage rights, and payment of twice the value of the find to the person entitled to the wreck. Taking wreck (without reporting it) from UK waters into a foreign port and selling it carries a maximum penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment.

What happens if the find is not wreck?

The MAS team will be glad to research all archaeological objects that you record, whether wreck or non-wreck.

What happens if the find is wreck?

The owner has one year to come forward and prove ownership of the items. If the owner decides that they would like their property returned, they may have to pay a salvage award to the finder.

If wreck from UK waters remains unclaimed at the end of one year, it becomes the property of the Crown and the RoW will dispose of the find on behalf of the Crown. If you believe you are entitled to unclaimed wreck, you must provide evidence of entitlement to the satisfaction of the RoW. In some cases, the finder may be allowed to keep unclaimed wreck in place of a salvage award.

What if a museum wants to acquire my find?

For wreck material that is of historical or archaeological importance, the RoW will try to ensure that it is offered to an appropriate museum. If you find historical wreck material, your views will be taken into consideration when placing the material in a museum and you may still be entitled to a salvage award.