The 2001 UNESCO convention on the protection of underwater cultural heritage: the case for UK ratification

by The British Academy and the Honor Frost Foundation



In March 2013 the British Academy and the Honor Frost Foundation convened a joint Steering Committee of underwater cultural heritage experts and senior archaeologists to work towards the UK ratification of the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.

An independent Impact Review has just been published, which details the UK's routes towards ratification, demonstrating that the reservations previously raised by the UK government are no longer of sufficient concern to oppose ratification.

In this briefing note, the British Academy and the Honor Frost Foundation are calling on the government to do more to protect the UK’s rich maritime legacy by ratifying the 2001 UNESCO Convention of the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. Without ratification the UK is largely incapable of offering protection to UK wrecks lying beyond our own waters. 

The centenary of the First World War is ample reminder that the remains of many British ships and seafarers rest on the seabed beyond our Territorial Sea. The UK should take advantage of the positive mechanisms set out in the Convention to safeguard the last resting places of so many and ensure that the UK’s interests are fully respected.

The steering group members are: 

  • Sir Barry Cunliffe CBE FBA (Chair), Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology, University of Oxford
  • Dr John Curtis OBE FBA, Chair of the Honor Frost Foundation
  • Professor Sarah Dromgoole, Professor of Maritime Law, University of Nottingham 
  • Joan Porter MacIver, Executive Director, Honor Frost Foundation
  • Jane Maddocks, Underwater Heritage Advisor, British Sub Aqua Club
  • Dr Adrian Olivier, Honorary Professor, Institute of Archaeology, UCL
  • Peter Wolrich, Partner, International Arbitration Group, Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP
  • Robert Yorke, Chair of the Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee

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