Underwater cultural heritage – problems and solutions (?)

Elina Moustaira


The development of modern survey, navigation, diving and remotely operated vehicle technologies contributed to the development of the maritime archaeology and the exploration and protection of shipwrecks by the official authorities of the countries but also to the accessibility of the underwater world by private persons and enterprises. The regime of the 1982 UNCLOS III has been proved absolutely counterproductive for the protection of the underwater cultural objects. The 2001 UNESCO Convention is an improvement, being though a compromise – as every international instrument. It states, that “the protection of underwater cultural heritage through in situ preservation shall be considered as the first option”. Its opponents, though, argue that it does not give the speedy response that would be needed in order to put obstacles to “the international industry of treasure hunters”. Various countries have enacted laws on the protection of underwater cultural heritage. Obviously, the differences of legal mentalities are reflected in those national laws. Undoubtedly, the problems are much more difficult to resolve, in areas that are disputed between the various littoral States. Famous cases show that agreements between the States can play a crucial role to the resolving of complicated situations. In any case, protection of the underwater cultural heritage should always be the target.


Shipwrecks, Cultural heritage, Underwater archaeology, in situ preservation, Coastal State jurisdiction, Flag State jurisdiction, 2001 UNESCO Convention

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5102/rdi.v17i3.7038

ISSN 2236-997X (impresso) - ISSN 2237-1036 (on-line)

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