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Stranded Vessels (Salvage)

Volume 35: debated on Tuesday 18 January 1983

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asked the Minister for Trade what functions are carried out by Her Majesty's Coastguard in respect of stranded ships, their contents and fittings; and what guidance is given by his Department to Her Majesty's Coastguard as to the legal ownership and status of such vessels and contents and as to any rights of salvage by members of the public.

The main responsibility for dealing with wrecked property on the coast of the United Kingdom and in United Kingdom territorial waters lies with the receiver of wreck for the district. He is usually an officer of Her Majesty's Customs and is appointed by my right hon. and noble Friend. Officers of Her Majesty's Coastguard may exercise the powers and perform the duties of a receiver of wreck in his absence and are available at all times to give him any advice and assistance he may require. Detailed and comprehensive guidance on matters relating to wreck and salvage is given by my Department to receivers of wreck. The guidance given to Her Majesty's Coastguard is set out in the following extract from "Instructions and Operational Procedures for Her Majesty's Coastguard":2.11.8 Assistance to Receivers of Wreck. The Secretary of State for Trade is responsible for appointing Receivers of Wreck under the Merchant Shipping Act 1894. The principal objectives of the Receiver's office are the protection and preservation of wrecked property and the restoration thereof to the owners. Officers of Her Majesty's Customs are normally appointed Receivers of Wreck and their responsibilities are given in "Instructions in respect of wreck and salvage, 1926" as modified by general minutes to Receivers of Wreck issued from time to time by the Department of Trade. While the Act enables officers of Her Majesty's Coastguard to perform the powers and duties of a Receiver of Wreck in the absence of the Receiver, in practice Her Majesty's Coastguard confine their activities to providing assistance to the Receiver as outlined below:

  • A Information about the incidence of "wreck" is passed to the Receiver. "Wreck" should be taken to include wrecked vessels, aircraft, hovercraft, jetsam, flotsam, lagan and derelict found in or on the shores of the sea or any tidal water.
  • B Salvors of wreck are to be told to deliver it to the Receiver of Wreck unless they have proof of ownership in which case full details should be given to the Receiver.
  • C If it is considered necessary, and provided that it does not interfere with normal duties and undue expenditure of time and money is not incurred, Her Majesty's Coastguard may provide temporary guard on the wreck or take custody of it until the Receiver makes his own arrangements.
  • D Property in the custody of Her Majesty's Coastguard must not be removed by the owner or his agent without the approval of the Receiver. Once the property has been delivered up to the owner, the responsibilities of the Receiver and Her Majesty's Coast guard cease. If the property remains unprotected on the beach, and the owners ask Her Majesty's Coastguard to provide protection, the request may be acceded to if:
  • 1. It will not interfere with normal duties;
  • 2. the request is made in writing; and
  • 3. the owners agree to provide adequate recompense for the time involved.