Receiver of Wreck

Part 9 of the Shipping (Jersey) Law 2002 provides details of the law as it applies to wrecks. The Receiver of Wreck is a post defined under article 128 of this law.

Shipping (Jersey) Law 2002

The Receiver is an official of Jersey’s government whose main task is to process incoming reports of shipwrecks in order to give legitimate owners the opportunity to retrieve their property and ensure that law-abiding finders of wreck receive an appropriate reward if applicable.

There are several Receiver of Wreck officials throughout the world. Each of the Channel Islands, along with the Isle of Man, have their own laws of wreck and salvage and their own Receiver of Wreck.

What is wreck?

According to the Shipping (Jersey) Law 2002, wreck includes the following definitions:

  • flotsam are goods lost from a ship that has sunk or otherwise perished, which are recoverable because they have floated
  • jetsam are goods cast overboard (jettisoned) in order to lighten a vessel that is in danger of sinking, even if they ultimately perish
  • derelict is property that has been abandoned and deserted at sea by those who were in charge, without any hope of recovering it. This includes vessels and cargo
  • lagan (or ligan) are goods cast overboard from a ship, which are buoyed so that they can be recovered later

Reporting wreck or removing anything from a wreck

Any wreck material found in local or UK territorial waters, or from outside the UK and brought within these waters, must by law be reported to the Receiver of Wreck, even if the finder is the owner. In Jersey, the Receiver of Wreck is the Director of Customs and Excise.

All wreck material discovered must be reported, however small or seemingly insignificant.

It is up to the Receiver to decide whether any wreck that is reported is important. Nothing may be removed from a wreck without the approval of the Receiver and to do so is an offence in law. This applies to valuable items such as:

  • bells
  • compasses
  • fixtures and fittings
  • plates
  • portholes

The Receiver may take advice from others to identify whether the wreck, or any part of a wreck, is of historical or archaeological interest.

The Receiver of Wreck will investigate ownership of any reported wreck. An owner has one year in which to come forward and prove title to the property. During this period it is common for the finder to hold the wreck on behalf of the Receiver of Wreck while investigations are carried out.

Unclaimed wreck

In Jersey, wreck that remains unclaimed after a year becomes the property of the Minister and the Receiver of Wreck may be required to dispose of it. Often the finder is allowed to keep items of unclaimed wreck in lieu of a salvage award.

Example of wreck

A recent, infamous wreck was that of the MSC Napoli, which ran aground off Branscombe Beach in Devon. The containers that the ship was carrying ended up on the beach, and goods within the containers were taken.