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Protected Wreck Sites

The Protection of Wrecks Act (1973) allows the Government to designate a wreck to prevent uncontrolled interference. Designated sites are identified as being likely to contain the remains of a vessel, or its contents, which are of historical, artistic or archaeological importance.

UK designated wreck sites
UK Designated Wreck Sites © Vince Griffin, English Heritage

A 'Statutory Instrument' - an Act of Parliament - identifies the location of the site and also the extent of the restricted area to ensure the site is protected. In some cases the site is indicated by a buoy, usually yellow and inscribed Protected Wreck.

Suitably placed notices sometimes indicate sites close to the shore. Some are warning signs; and others are public information notices giving a brief explanation of why the wreck is important and a description of the site.

All protected wrecks are listed in the annual Admiralty Notices to Mariners and are marked on appropriate UK Hydrographic Office charts.

Anyone wanting to dive to visit, salvage or deposit anything at the site will need a licence to do so, granted by the appropriate Secretary of State - doing so without a licence is a criminal offence.

Bathing, angling and navigation are permitted within a restricted area provided there is no likelihood of, or intention to, damage the wreck or obstruct work on it.

Anchoring on the site is only permitted for licensed activities or in cases of maritime distress.

Do you need to apply for a Marine Licence?

Applications are handled by Historic England on behalf of the Secretary of State.

Please see our information on Applying for Marine Licences, or use the following links:

Apply for new Licence

Apply to renew an existing Licence

Notify Historic England of Exempt Geophysical Survey