Saturday, July 20, 2024

US Government: Look At Sunken US Shipwrecks, But Otherwise Leave Them Alone


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.

John Liang
John Liang
John Liang is the News Editor at He first got the diving bug while in High School in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification in the Red Sea off the Sinai Peninsula. Since then, John has dived in a volcanic lake in Guatemala, among white-tipped sharks off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and other places including a pool in Las Vegas helping to break the world record for the largest underwater press conference.