Now that the weather is warming up a bit then I expect we will all start to get some decent diving in. As some of you will know the Ministry of Defence have protected another nine vessels under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 and it could be useful to go over what the designations are, what they mean, and what you can and cannot do on those vessels.
There are nine new Protected Places. These are vessels that can be dived, but divers should not touch or tamper with them. They are: HMS Duke of Albany 26 Aug 1916, HMS Fisgard II 17 Sept 1914, HMS Fitzroy 17 May 1942, HMT Kurd 10 July 1945, SS Mendi 21 Feb 1917, HMS Mourne 15th June 1944, HMS Pathfinder 5th September 1939-(ironically she was the first HMS vessel to be sunk in World War 2) and HMS Vervain 20th Feb 1945.
These vessels do not have any position given. This is because the vessel, wherever she may be, is a Protected Place. It is only vessels that are designated as Controlled Sites that have their charted position identified.
There are no new Controlled sites in this tranche of protections. The current list of Controlled Sites include:
HMS Bulwark, HMS Natal, HMS A7, HMS Dasher, HMS Royal Oak, HMS Vanguard,UB81, HMS A5, HMS Hampshire, HMS Affray, HMS Formidable and HMS Exmouth.
These vessels may not be dived under any circumstances without the permission of the Ministry of Defence, a permission that is rarely, if ever, granted.
If you want to see the full list of vessels protected by the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 then use a search engine and type in The Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 (Designation of vessels and Controlled Sites) Order 2009. It is 2009 that will give you the right list for this year. If you want more information Wikipedia is really good, and typing in the names of vessels designated under the order will often take you to sites that explain more about the event, and what happened the day she went down.
The other list of protected wrecks is the one that protects historic wrecks. This is administered by English Heritage. These wrecks are protected by the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. These operate differently. You must have a licence that gives permission to dive on these wrecks. Most are protected because they are historically important but two are protected because they are dangerous: SS Richard Montgomery and SS Castilian; SS Richard Montgomery has enough explosives in her to take out a substantial part of the Thames Estuary. The 63 other wrecks can all be found if you search for ‘List of Designations under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973’and click on the Wikipedia site.
There are some sound explanations of what the law means in these sites, and again searching for individual vessel names can highlight some amazing stories. However it is a criminal offence to dive these vessels without the proper licence.
If you want to find out about what types of licence you might want to apply for then go to ‘English Heritage Maritime Team’ in your search engine then click on Applying for Licences. You might want to look at Visitor’s licences, or if a particular wreck really takes your interest you might want to find out more about becoming a licensee yourself. Enjoy the summer.
Underwater Heritage Advisor