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Grave robbers or archaeologists? Salvaging shipwrecks

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Grave robbers or archaeologists? Salvaging shipwrecks

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Thesis
The issue of potentially polluting wrecks is relatively unstudied in the UK despite the potential threat presented by hundreds of shipwrecks in UK waters that contain oil, chemicals and other hazardous materials. As these wrecks degrade they will inevitably release their cargoes and fuel stores into the marine environment. While there have been studies elsewhere that examine the risk from polluting shipwrecks, the limited work that has been undertaken on this topic in the UK is restricted to a number of government commissioned reports. These have attempted to quantify and risk assess the shipwrecks that pose a pollution threat in UK waters in order to inform ongoing management of these shipwrecks. However, there remain significant uncertainties about the nature of the threat from polluting shipwrecks in the UK. The existing studies also fail to take into account social and political influences that affect wreck management. This research therefore critically examines the state of research and the current management of polluting shipwrecks in the UK. It does this through examination of the legal requirements to remediate wrecks and to determine who is responsible for managing these shipwrecks. It presents a critical analysis of the existing risk assessments, wreck databases and the data that underpins them to reveal the high level of uncertainty in existing studies. Finally it demonstrates that through spatial assessment of open source socio-economic datasets we can determine with more certainty the potential consequences of wreck pollution and its impacts on the UK. The results of this research highlight issues relating to data availability and reliability which limits our ability to adequately risk assess and make decisions to pro-actively manage these wrecks. This research provides an alternative method for prioritising mitigation measures based on the spatial analysis of the socio-economic impact of wreck pollution rather than through traditional risk assessment. This allows us to examine these wrecks in a new manner and to make decisions despite high levels of uncertainty. It also allows for greater stakeholder engagement and integration into the management process. Ultimately this research presents the first holistic assessment of the management of potentially polluting wrecks in the UK.
Article
This Comment assesses the marine archaeology provisions of UNCLOS III and argues that the principles embodied in U.S. abandoned shipwreck law may significantly contribute to cooperative efforts that determine the future of shipwrecks found in international waters. Part I compares the existing legal framework of international marine archaeology established by UNCLOS III with U.S. law on abandoned historic shipwrecks. Part II presents commentators' interpretations of the Convention's marine archaeology provisions. Part II emphasizes these commentators' views on the ability of a nation to obtain jurisdiction over shipwreck recovery operations in international waters and whether nations should apply principles of salvage and finds to these efforts. Part III argues that UNCLOS III should be broadly interpreted to better reflect the U.S. view that salvage and finds law is inappropriate for historic shipwrecks. Finally, Part III proposes a legal structure for the treatment of historic shipwrecks found beyond domestic jurisdiction.