The British Academy & Honor Frost Foundation Steering Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage calls for the UK Government to ratify the 2001 UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.

Original mound of amphorae before excavation. Claude Duthuit positions a magnetometer atop the wreck in a 1967 survey looking for the presence of iron. © M.L.Katzv / Kyrenia Project

The British Academy and the Honor Frost Foundation are working together to safeguard underwater cultural heritage through a steering committee set up in 2013. A briefing document has been published calling on the UK Government to do more to protect Britain’s rich maritime legacy by ratifying the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

The briefing document, prepared by a steering group of senior archaeologists and underwater cultural heritage experts, brought together by the British Academy and the Honor Frost Foundation, identifies 5 key reasons why the UK should ratify:

  1. To help protect historic wrecks of UK origin around the world
  2. To make it easier for the UK to manage underwater cultural heritage
  3. To generate savings and economic benefits
  4. To help the UK reinforce its interpretation of the international Law of the Sea
  5. To enable the UK heritage sector to grow internationally

Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe FBA, Chairman of the British Academy and Honor Frost Foundation Steering Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage said:

“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 briefing document argues that ratification by the UK Government would show that it is doing all it can to protect Britain’s maritime heritage and the mass graves of those lost at sea.

This current call for support has been prompted by the recent publication of an independent report ‘The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001: an Impact Review for the United Kingdom’ funded by English Heritage (Project 6454 Main) and the Honor Frost Foundation, and administered by the United Kingdom National Commission for UNESCO.

More details can be found on the British Academy’s Policy Centre website.

News coverage of the publication of the briefing document also appeared in the online edition of the Observer 23 March 2014