Law of Wreck, The

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Rights in relation to wreck

3.1 Conceptual development of wreck and interests in wreck

In common terms ‘wreck’ has a very wide meaning, and when pertaining to a vessel usually means one that has been “broken, ruined, or totally disabled by being driven on rocks, cast ashore, or stranded; a wrecked or helpless ship” or which has sunk.1 It is used both to describe the event and the result. Buckley LJ in The Olympic 2 understood ‘wreck’ to mean broadly “anything happening to the ship which renders her incapable of carrying out the maritime adventure”.3 The resulting wreck usually extends to the vessel (hull, machinery, fixtures and fittings) as well as its cargo and to all the crew and passenger’s belongings associated with the vessel.4 This common meaning is also reflected in the Institute of International Law’s 2015 resolution on the wrecks of State vessels, defining a wreck as a “sunken State ship which is no longer operational, or any part thereof, including any sunken object that is or has been on board such ship”.5

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