With recent changes to the legislation on marine salvage, picking something up off the bottom can find you facing a fine of up to £50,000. Until recently British divers could recover artefacts off the sea bed, report the findings to the receiver of the wreck and contribute to the location of previously unknown or designated wrecks.
Now under clarified guidelines divers who discover an item they want to bring to the surface have to adhere to the following guidelines; if the object has been under water for longer than twelve months or over 100 kg you will have to surface, record the location (without marking it with a shot line or buoy), apply for a licence (starting at over £150), wait for the license to arrive and then return to the site and recover the object. If you are using shot lines to mark locations you can only leave them for up to 24 hours, but those left for more than 24 hours and less than 28 days require you to inform the Marine Management Organisation (details below). Anything longer than 28 days requires you to apply for a licence before you set one up.
Using SMBs, dSMBs can still be used without a licence if they are deployed by hand, lift bags can also be used without a licence but only when used to the following guidelines: “lifting bags of less than 100kg total lifting capacity for the object may be used without a marine license to recover items that have been on the seabed for less than 12 months, such as shot weights, datums, lost diving equipment etc.” So as long as you are using a bag or bags with a maximum lift capacity of no more than 100 kg to recover an item that you have dropped in the last year you should be fine and do not require a license.
Moving items from one place to another is also counted as a licensable activity as it can be considered dredging, “using any device” to move an object “from one part of the sea or sea bed to another”. The MMO has agreed that light work on the seabed, using your hand to blow away silt or simple hand tools, does not require a license. Any devices that are powered from the surface or boat, such as water dredges and airlifts require a licence. This has worried many in the industry with the fear that divers will continue to recover artefacts but not inform anybody to avoid licensing fees and chances of not being able to find the artefact again after the licensing period. This would be a shame as it will severely limit the amount of information about unknown or designated wrecks off our coastline.
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To apply for a license contact: Marine Management Organisation, Lancaster House Hampshire Court Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 7YH MMO helpline : 0300 123 1032 Email : [email protected]