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Territorial seas extension: what does it mean for shipwrecks?

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Friday 26 July 2019

This week, the Bailiwick of Guernsey's territorial seas were extended from 3 to 12 nautical miles.

For divers, 'wreck-hunters' or anyone else who might encounter shipwrecks, this change is relevant as it means that what constitutes 'local waters' in the laws regarding wrecks now extends to the new territorial seas limit 12 nm.

Wrecks in the 3 to 12 nm zone might previously have been considered to fall outside Bailiwick of Guernsey wreck law, but are now included within it. It is a requirement to report any shipwreck or other items of wreck found within the 12 nm limit to the Receiver of Wreck. Items of historic wreck, which means 50 years or older, must not be tampered with, nor moved nor removed without permission. Divers wishing to dive on historic wrecks within the new 12 nm-limit will need to apply for a licence to do so.*

Existing search and rescue regional operational arrangements and existing pollution incident plans are unaffected by the expansion of the territorial seas.

Guernsey's Receiver of Wreck, Adrian Lewis, said:

'We want to be sure our diving community, who have always worked with us, are kept informed about how changes to our territorial waters affect them. It is important that everyone can continue to explore and enjoy our shoreline and marine environment responsibly and legally and that divers can continue to play a key role in helping us to learn about our maritime history.'

Any divers or others with questions about how the change in territorial waters affects wrecks should contact the Receiver of Wreck.

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