Home History Membership Publications Consultations


Welcome to the Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee

The Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee (JNAPC) was formed as a working group on a national policy for nautical archaeology on 19th February 1988. Its members represented a collection of the UK bodies which had interests in nautical archaeology. The founding members were the National Maritime Museum, the Nautical Archaeology Society, the Council for British Archaeology and the Society for Nautical Research.

JNAPC Statement on HMS Victory sunk in 1744 - September 2018

The Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee (JNAPC) notes the conclusion by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Department for Culture, Digital, Media and Sports (DCMS) that the site of HMS Victory 1744 is environmentally stable and that the site is best managed by preservation in situ. The JNAPC particularly welcomes the application of technology to safeguard the site, enabling 24/7 monitoring, which brings with it a substantial reduction in any threat to the site from unauthorised interference. This application clearly marks the way forward in protecting the UKs underwater cultural heritage.

While the decision of the MOD and DCMS is described as final, it does open a new chapter in the management of the site. AS MOD and DCMS state, should any environmental change occur a review of the situation will be conducted. Future management of the site now requires a programme of periodic monitoring and assessment to inform future decision making. JNAPC members have considerable experience and expertise and the JNAPC renews its offer of assistance in developing future management options and looks forward to working constructively with all parties to secure effective management of this site into the future.

Statement dated: September 2018

Royal Navy Loss List

Wrecks in International Waters: JNAPC Position Statement

The JNAPC's position is that historic wrecks in international waters should not be salvaged or excavated for commercial gain. Only if a wreck is under severe threat, or there is a clear research objective, should excavation take place. Otherwise the wreck should be left in situ. Most of these wrecks lie in very deep water and excavation techniques at depth using remote operated vehicles (ROV's) are in their infancy. Salvage today will almost certainly lead to the unnecessary loss of irreplaceable historical information. There is only one opportunity to gather the unique evidence of our past from these 'time-capsules' of history and this should not be squandered for short-term financial gain.

The cost of deep water archaeological excavation is tens of thousands of pounds sterling (or US dollars) per day and problematically the imperatives of commercial salvage are inconsistent with the methodical and painstaking requirements of proper archaeological excavation. Furthermore commercial salvage relies on the sale of the recovered artefacts to profit from the exercise.

The sale of artefacts from historic wrecks is, however, contrary to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001 (the UNESCO Convention) which came into force on the 2nd January 2009. This is specifically stated in Article 2.7 and Rule 2 of the Annex.

Although the UK Government has been unwilling to ratify the UNESCO Convention, it has publicly endorsed the Annex and general principles of the Convention and stated that it should be followed as best practice.

The JNAPC believes that the UK Government should not therefore enter into any agreement, contract or salvage arrangement which does not comply with the principles of the Annex to the UNESCO Convention. The Annex specifically prohibits the sale of artefacts from the wrecks of historic vessels. It also requires that proper respect is given to human remains: the loss of a major warship was often accompanied by the loss of hundreds of service personnel whose last resting place may be the wreck itself.

If a wreck proves to be a sovereign immune vessel, such as a British warship in the case of HMS Victory sunk in 1744, it is a well settled point of international law that the finder has no claim to salvage rights or ownership of the recovered finds, as demonstrated in the case of the Juno and La Galga (Seahunt and Commonwealth of Virginia versus the unidentified shipwreck vessel or vessels: US Court of Appeal, 4th circuit 21 July 2000).

To contact JNAPC, email jnapc@britarch.ac.uk