There are thousands of wrecked vessels around the Irish coast. These may be protected if they are over 100 years old or are considered to be of sufficient historical, archaeological or artistic importance. A licence may be required to dive such wrecks.
If you recover wreck material within Irish territorial waters or bring wreck material into Irish territorial waters, you must report it to a Receiver of Wreck.
The Merchant Shipping (Salvage and Wreck) Act 1993
is the principle Irish legislation governing salvage and wreck. The Act sets out the roles and responsibilities of the various participants in salvage and wreck situations. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) has the lead policy role under the Act. Operational responsibility for the area lies with the Revenue Commissioners.
Role of the Receiver of Wreck
Any ship-wreck or related material (including cargo) regardless of how small that is found:
• in Irish territorial waters up to the twelve mile limit
• outside Ireland, and brought within Irish territorial waters
must, by law, be reported to a Receiver of Wreck.
In the event that salvaged cargo is brought into the State, the role of the Receiver of Wreck is to receive the wreck, secure it, notify relevant parties in line with the provisions of the Act and seek to find any party with a legitimate claim to it.
Ownership of Wreck and Reward of Salvor
If the wreck can be proven to the satisfaction of the Receiver to belong to parties who or whose agents are on the spot to receive landed wreck, it need not be taken into custody and no fee is charged. Otherwise, the wreck is to be delivered to the Receiver for the District concerned as soon as possible. The fees currently chargeable for functions carried out by the Receiver are listed in Schedule S.I. No. 594/2010
Merchant Shipping (Fees) Order, 2010.
When, to the satisfaction of the Receiver, ownership of a wreck is established within one year from the time when the wreck came into the Receiver’s possession, then that person, having paid the salvage fees and expenses due, will be entitled to have possession of the wreck or of the proceeds of sale of the wreck.
For a finder of wreck who is not the owner, the general principle under the law of salvage is that the salvor may be entitled to a salvage reward, rather than ownership of the vessel itself.
The circumstances under which a wreck may be sold by the Receiver immediately are outlined in Section 47
of the 1993 Act. Section 48
gives the State an entitlement to all unclaimed wreck which has been subject to the claims process set out in that Act.
For further information on the role of the Receiver of Wreck and the relative rights, duties and responsibilities of Owners, Salvers and Receivers please refer to the Revenue Website
Regarding any proposed salvage operations on wrecks located around the Irish Coast, the following applies:
1. Under Irish law
“a person who boards or attempts to board any wrecked or stranded vessel without the permission of the master or owner of that vessel shall be guilty of an offence.” Therefore, permission must be obtained from the owner of the vessel prior to the commencement of any salvage operation.
2. Contact must be made with The Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) who will require specific information, including the following:
• Salvage plan
• Pollution risk assessments
• Emergency response and oil spill plans
3. The following Departments and Agencies should also be contacted for their permission and observations before any proposed salvage operation