Statutory Harbour Authorities (some of which are Local Authorities) have powers to deal with wrecks and unservicable and abandoned vessels within their harbour limits.
These powers are available under sections 52, 56 and 57 of the Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act 1847 (exercisable by the Harbour Master) and in section 252 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. The powers allow the removal of wrecks and unserviceable and abandoned vessels and recovery of the cost of doing so from the owner or through disposal of the vessel.
Where there is no statutory harbour authority or conservancy authority in place to use the powers in the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, under s253 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 the General Lighthouse Authority may use the same powers set out in section 252 to deal with such vessels where, in the authority’s opinion the vessel is, or is likely to become, an obstruction or danger to navigation or to lifeboats engaged in lifeboat service.
The receiver of wreck, who only deals with wrecked vessels and is a statutory appointment under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, has powers under section 243 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 to dispose of unclaimed wrecks one year after they come into the receiver’s possession. The Act sets out the dissemination of the proceeds of sale after disposal expenses.
Statutory Harbour Authorities operate on a commercial basis without ongoing support from Government and the General Lighthouse Authority are fully funded from a tax on shipping, receiving no money from the UK exchequer. There are no plans for any other funding to be made available.