‘Wrecks’ and ‘Wreck’


The seas around Wales are littered with the wrecks of vessels of all shapes and sizes. Although all of them have historic value, six currently have legal protection. These six are known as ‘designated wrecks’ and are protected under the 1973 Protection of Wrecks Act. Any activities on these wrecks, including visiting, filming and surveying, require a licence, granted by Cadw. Different licences cover different activities. Forms and background notes can be downloaded from our site or you can contact Cadw for advice.

Divers who discover a historic wreck should take great care not to damage it; either by disturbing the structure or by removing artefacts from the wreck. Cadw is always interested to hear about discoveries and we may be able to help find out more about the site.


‘Wreck’ is the term used to describe something which has been lost at sea. ‘Wreck’ can be something which fell overboard, something which was thrown overboard to lighten the ship, or a piece of the ship itself. In fact, ‘wreck’ can be almost anything!

All wreck material, whether it is recovered at sea or on the shore, by law must be reported to the Receiver of Wreck. The types of material reported include portholes, bells, compasses, pots, cannon, coins, nameplates …the list goes on. Reporting wreck does not automatically mean that it will be taken away from you, but it means that the historic and archaeological value of the material can be assessed and the Receiver of Wreck will, if possible, try and trace the owner.