The US Maritime Administration is reminding divers that recovering objects from sunken US government-owned ships is pretty much forbidden.
That ban includes US ships sunk in international or foreign government-run waters, according to a recent notice.
“Shipwrecks in the custody and or control of MARAD are highly threatened by illegal salvage,” the notice states. “MARAD custody and control extends to any shipwreck of a vessel at the time of its sinking that was owned by or under charter of MARAD or one of its predecessor agencies.”
Those predecessor agencies include:
- the United States Shipping Board,
- the Emergency Fleet Corporation,
- the Merchant Fleet Corporation,
- the Shipping Board of the U.S. Department of Commerce,
- the War Shipping Administration, and
- the United States Maritime Commission.
“MARAD is authorized to protect the property interests of the United States government and to protect the war graves associated with all such shipwrecks. Pursuant to its authority, on behalf of the United States, MARAD does not consent to the salvage of such shipwrecks and or their cargoes.”
The agency acknowledges that, while it “prefers non-intrusive, in situ research,” there are certain rare instances where artifact recovery could be justified or necessary, in which case a written request is required.
For the full rules on what to do if you’re looking to recover artifacts from a particular sunken wreck, you’ll need to read the full notice here.