The Receiver of Wreck - Introduction
The Receiver of Wreck is an official of the
British government whose main task is to process
incoming reports of wreck in order to:
- Give the legitimate owner the opportunity to
retrieve their property
- Ensure that law-abiding finders of wreck receive
an appropriate reward
This involves researching ownership, liaising with
the finder and the owner, and other interested parties
such as archaeologists and museums.
Under British law, he/she is also to be notified on
the disposal of whale carcasses impeding shipping lanes
in British waters.
Operating on behalf of the Department of Transport
the Receiver of Wreck is located within the Maritime and
Until 1993 the job was carried out by numerous
coastal customs officials. Nowadays the Receiver is
based in Southampton and is helped by local outposts of
The current Receiver of Wreck is Sophia Exelby
(Contact her on 02380 329474 or email
What is wreck?
According to the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, wreck is:
- Flotsam - Flotsam are goods lost from a ship which
has sunk or otherwise perished which are recoverable
because they have floated.
- Jetsam - Jetsam are goods cast overboard in order to
lighten a vessel which is in danger of sinking, even if
they ultimately perish.
- Derelict - Derelict is property which 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 - Lagan (or ligan) are goods cast overboard
from a ship, which afterwards perish, buoyed so that
they can be recovered later.
The requirements of UK law
It is a legal requirement that all recovered wreck landed
in the United Kingdom is reported to the Receiver of Wreck,
whether recovered from within or outside UK waters and even
if the finder is the owner. The Receiver of Wreck will
investigate ownership. The 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
Wreck which remains unclaimed after a year becomes the
property of the Crown and the Receiver of Wreck is required
to dispose of it. Often the finder is allowed to keep items
of unclaimed wreck in lieu of a salvage award.
From Wikipedia, the free
Wreck of the MSC Napoli, Branscombe, Devon
(If you visited Branscombe today, please
email me or go over to the forum,
I would love to hear some first hand accounts from people
who were actually there).
Sophia Exelby (the Receiver of Wreck) must have
one hell of a headache today (January 22,
The 62,000 tonne container ship, MSC Napoli, got into
difficulties last Thursday (January 18,
2007) and was later deliberately run aground to prevent her
sinking. She has since lost some of her containers to the
according to the BBC), and so began the free-for-all.
Would be salvors arrived from all over
the south west to pick over what had been washed up and many
very valuable items were recovered, including at least one
car and as many as 50 brand new BMW motorcycles. Other items
washed ashore on the tide were of a more utilitarian nature,
shampoo, nappies and bags of fertiliser.
Many news programs are also reporting
that Napoli was carrying potentially dangerous chemicals.
If you are one of the people who
recovered items on the beach at Branscombe today, please
read everything written below very carefully, 'Salvage' is not another term for 'finders keepers'
there are rules and regulations that need to followed, and
failure to obey the law could land you in hot water.
I don't like to be the bearer of bad
news, but I don't want any of the many visitors coming here
for information on UK salvage law to get into trouble.
Remember - it is part of the receiver
of wreck's job to make sure that people who recover material
from a wreck site legally receive an appropriate
If you have any doubts or require
further information please contact the Receiver of
Sophia Exelby (Contact her on 02380 329474 or email
Apparently, all roads to the site are
being sealed off and the rumour mill is reporting that the
police will soon remove everybody not involved with recovery
or clean up operations from the beach and prevent further
access to the area.
A man appeared on the news about half an
hour ago holding a steering wheel for a BMW M5 (I am told
these are incredibly expensive to buy) and said that he was
thinking about putting it on eBay, don't do it! Call
the Receiver of Wreck!
Nappies supposedly from the MSC
Napoli are now for sale on eBay, bad idea people! (this
particular auction is probably a joke) [link now dead]