Dutch Salvors Accused of Looting Warship Wreck

HMS Queen Mary (public domain file image)

By The Maritime Executive 2016-09-22 21:27:40

Maritime heritage organizations in the UK and in Denmark have accused Dutch salvage firm Friendship Offshore of pillaging the wreck of the WWI battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary for scrap. 

The Queen Mary exploded and sank in the Battle of Jutland with the loss of 1,266 lives, and her wreck is a UK-designated maritime grave site.

The salvors allegedly broke the Queen Mary's hull open to remove boiler components and other equipment containing copper and bronze.

The allegations renew claims publicized in May by ThePipeline and the BBC, and include photographic evidence which appears to show remains of the Queen Mary on the deck of the Good Hope, a vessel owned by the salvage, recovery and wreck removal firm Friendship Offshore. 

The UK Ministry of Defence is also coming under criticism for its claim that ht is "not aware of any illegal salvage activity taking place on other Jutland wreck sites." Advocates say that they have provided a succession of reports to a wide variety of politicians and government officials, including the Ministry of Defence, the Secretary of State for Defence and the Ministry of Defence Police. 

UK history news site ThePipeline notes that it was common practice in the twentieth century for the MoD to license scrapping rights for Royal Navy shipwrecks. Vessels commercially salvaged with government authorization included the HMS Cressy, Hogue, Aboukir, Vanguard, Natal and Edinburgh. 

Following the Protection of Military Remains Act in 1986, the government could discourage unauthorized activity within UK waters and by UK nationals abroad by designating protected sites. The Jutland wrecks, including the Queen Mary, were given this protection in 2006. In addition, in international waters, the wrecks are theoretically protected by international law as the remains of state-owned vessels – but MoD has not yet attempted to enforce these provisions.