WRECKS IN THE GREEK SEAS 1830-1951 -THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK AT A GLANCE
Until 2003 the Ministry of Culture had no jurisdiction over shipwrecks, unless they dated before 1830, in which case they came under the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities. Since 2003, however, and after the issuing of a Ministerial Decision, designating shipwrecks over 50-years-old as “cultural assets”, certain responsibilities were deputed to the Ministry of Culture and Sports. (Law #3028/2002 “About Antiquities and the Cultural Heritage in General”)
Compulsory Law #464/1945
By this law the Organization for the Raising of Shipwrecks (el O.A.N) was established, – its aim being to remove shipwrecks lying within the Greek territorial waters (6 nautical miles) for whatever development or sale.
During the years of its validity – until August 1951 – many tenders were opened for the sale of salvaged shipwrecks, whether Greek merchant vessels or warships, or vessels that had flown other countries’ flags, such as German landing craft.
Legislative Decree #2648/ 1953
This decree was issued in 1953, and its Article 4 defines that all shipwrecks and wreckage in the Greek seas, which after the expiration of Law 464/1945 had become the property of the Organization for the Raising of Wrecks (O.A.N.), revert to the ownership of the Mariners’ Pension Fund (el N.A.T).
With the exception, however, of warships and war material, wherever they may be found, but also of all shipwrecks lying within restricted areas (naval fortresses), the ownership of which is given to the Stakeholding Navy’s Fund (el M.T.N).
This decree leaves no doubts as to ownership issues of sunken warships, war material, and merchant ships within the area of naval fortresses, since, by explicit provision they are the property of the Stakeholding Navy’s Fund (M.T.N).
Decision to designate shipwrecks as Cultural Assets ΥΠΠΟ/ΓΔΑΠΚ/ΑΡΧ/Α1/Φ43/48604/3385/5-9-2003 (OGG (Official Government Gazette) 1701/Β΄/19-11-2003)
Following the Minister of Culture’s decision in 2003, the wrecks of ships and aircrafts, the date of sinking of which antedates the decision by 50 years, were designated as Cultural Assets. Further, by the same Ministerial Decision a protection zone of 300m, according to Article 15.4 of Law #3028/2002 was established. It should be noted that by these stipulations neither the legal status of the ships, when they sink, nor the legal definition of the warship, according to Article 29 of UNCLOS 1982, are affected.
However, in the aforementioned decision there is no specific reference according the designation of “monument” to each shipwreck separately, as it happens in all the other cases of monuments.
Typical examples of moveable and immovable monuments that have received the designation “monuments” are the following:
• (M.D) ΥΑ ΥΠΟ//2015 Β-1539 Designated as monuments: the rowing tartan Evaggelistria and the ferry-boat Hagios Georghios.
• (M.D) ΥΑ 268//2012 Β-1976 Designated as movable monument: the photographic archives of the Boissonnas’ family, that are kept at the Photography Museum in Thessaloniki.
• (M.D) ΥΑ ΥΠΠ//2016 Designated as monuments: 350 objects (garments and accessories) from Historic Wardrobe of the National Theater of Greece.
• (M.D) ΥΑ ΥΠΠ//2006 Β-351 Designated as monument: the main building of the former “Eastern Athens Airport ".
OWNED BY HELLENIC NAVY GENERAL STAFF
• (M.D) ΥΑ ΥΠΠ//2006 Β-1203: Designated as monument: the lighthouse at Cape Maleas, Lakonia.
Law #3028/2002 “About Antiquities and the Cultural Heritage in General”
With this comprehensive and methodic law legislation on archaeological matters has now been completed and systematized.
In Article 2, the following definitions, among others, are put forward:
a. The tangible evidence of the existence of man and of his individual and collective activities comes under the definition of “cultural assets”.
b. The cultural assets that constitute material evidence and which belong to the cultural heritage of the country are considered monuments, to which a very special type of protection should be afforded, based on the following specifics:
(1) The term “ancient monuments” or “antiquities” is applied to all cultural assets belonging to the Prehistoric, Ancient, Byzantine and Post-Byzantine eras and which are dated before 1830.
(2) The term “modern monuments” is applied to the cultural assets that are posterior to 1830 and their protection is considered indispensable because of their historic, artistic or scientific significance.
(3) The term “immovable monuments” is applied to those monuments that were attached to the ground and which remain on it or they are found at the bottom of the sea or on a lake- or river-bed; also the same term is applied to those monuments that are standing on the ground or are found at the bottom of the sea, or on a lake- or river-bed and it is not possible to move them without damaging their evidential value, while, on the other hand, the term “movable” is applied to those objects that are not stationary.
Further on, in Article 20 of the same Law movable monuments are distinguished between:
α. those dated before 1453,
β. those posterior to 1453 and up to 1830, which are finds from an excavation or from any other archaeological search, or are pieces abstracted from immovable monuments, as well as religious icons and functional objects of the same period.
Then in Article 27 of the same Law, the rights and obligations of the owners of movable and immovable monuments are determined. According to this article the owners of those are responsible for their safe-keeping and preservation.