Action on illegal diving at shipwrecks


Share post:

English Heritage has issued a warning that action will be taken against anyone illegally accessing, damaging or removing items from protected historic wrecks. 

A cannon is seen on the seafloor at the wreck site of the warship ‘Coronation’

This follows the launch of the Alliance to Reduce Crimes Against Heritage (ARCH) in February with the support of over 40 organisations 

English Heritage and the police are increasingly working together to safeguard wreck sites designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. In recent weeks, the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) intercepted divers on the edge of the protected wreck site of the British warship, the Coronation, off Penlee Point, near Plymouth. A number of items in their boat were then taken for analysis to determine if they had been taken from the wreck. Officers are now awaiting specialist assessment of the items to see if further enquiries will need to be carried out. 

Armed vessels from the MDP’s Devonport Dockyard Marine Unit patrol a restricted area of water (112 square miles) adjacent to the Naval Base at Devonport and escort warship and submarine movements in and out of the Base. The Unit is often tasked by the Queen’s Harbour Master (a Royal Navy appointment) at the Base, who has responsibility for keeping the restricted zone clear of non-military vessels, and ensuring the proper enforcement of any legal requirements. On this occasion a report was received by QHM from the local coastguard that divers had been seen off Penlee Point. A police RIB attended and spoke to two men on board a vessel. 

MDP marine unit inspector Gordon Peters said, ‘Penlee Point falls within the Dockyard Port of Plymouth area which is patrolled by MDP launches and boats as part of its protection of Royal Navy assets. 

‘We were pleased to assist in this case after receiving a request from the Queen’s Harbour Master to investigate possible unauthorised activity at the wreck of the Coronation.’ 

Chief inspector Mark Harrison of Kent Police who is policing advisor for English Heritage said, ‘We thank the MOD Police for their prompt response and for investigating the threat to the Coronation protected wreck site. The incident has highlighted the need for all agencies to work together to protect these sites. Divers and other sea users are reminded that the sites are being monitored and action will be taken where there is an infringement of the law. 

‘People in this country have a deep affection for their heritage and English Heritage has a duty to protect it. There is increasing evidence that suggests that the threat from heritage crimes is growing and we need to do something about it. This case sends out a clear message that action will be taken to put a stop to illegal activity, as well as showing that sites are being monitored on a regular basis.’ 

Alison James, maritime archaeologist for English Heritage added, ‘There are 46 wreck sites in England protected by the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. Access to them is controlled through a licensing system. Divers wishing to access the sites should contact me directly or fill in the online application form on the English Heritage website.’ 

Source: Maritime Journal [March 31, 2011]



Related articles

Ancient shipwrecks discovered in the Aegean

Archaeologists have discovered ancient shipwrecks near the island of Makronissos in the Aegean Sea, dating back to the...

Woolly Mammoth remains unearthed in Switzerland

Mammoth remains that could be around 20,000 years old have been discovered at a building site in central...

Early Universe less dusty than thought

Dust may be more rare than expected in galaxies of the early Universe, according to an international research...

100,000-yr-old fossilized teeth of cavemen found in Central China

Archaeologists have unearthed fossilized teeth of cavemen dating back 100,000 years, the first such discoveries in central China....

A galaxy blooming with new stars

The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) has captured the beauty of the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 253. The new...

Gulf of Mexico clean-up makes 2010 spill 52-times more toxic

If the 4.9 million barrels of oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 Deep...

First-ever hyperspectral images of Earth’s auroras

Hoping to expand our understanding of auroras and other fleeting atmospheric events, a team of space-weather researchers designed...

Database of Scotland’s ancient rock art to be created

A digital database of Scotland's Neolithic and early Bronze Age rock art is to be created. Rock with cup...