The Triton


Nairobi International Convention cleans up on the removal of wrecks


The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007, was adopted by an international conference held in Kenya in 2007. The Convention, also referred to as the WRC, provides the legal basis for governments to remove, or have removed, shipwrecks that may have a negative effect for the safety of lives, goods, and property at sea, in addition to the marine environment.

The Nairobi Convention went into force on April 14. It applies to all vessels, including yachts, of 300 gross tons and greater.

The Convention resolves a continued absence in the existing international legal framework. It provides a set of uniform international rules aimed at ensuring the prompt and effective removal of wrecks located beyond a nation’s territorial sea. The WRC also includes an optional clause that allows those countries adopting it to apply certain international provisions to their own national, territorial waters. Territorial waters are usually the 12 miles closest to a nation’s coast.

While it is widely recognized that the occurrence of marine casualties has decreased dramatically in recent years, the number of worldwide abandoned wrecks is estimated at nearly 1,300 vessels. Because of this large number of occurrences, the International Maritime Organization has identified a call for action.

The non-removal of wrecks creates three major concerns. First, and depending on its location, a wreck may constitute a hazard to navigation. It can potentially endanger other vessels and their crews. Second, depending on the nature of the cargo, there is the potential for a wreck to cause substantial damage to the marine and coastal environments. Third, in an age where goods and services are becoming increasingly expensive, there is a concern with the costs involved in the proper marking and removal of hazardous wrecks.

Like most international regulations issued by the IMO, the contents of the Convention are extensive. The major topics covered include:

  • reporting and locating ships and wrecks, covering the reporting of casualties to the nearest coastal state, warnings to mariners and coastal states about the wreck, and action by the coastal state to locate the ship or wreck;
  • criteria for determining the hazard posed by wrecks, including depth of water above the wreck, proximity of shipping routes, traffic density and frequency, type of traffic and vulnerability of port facilities. Environmental criteria such as damage likely to result from the release into the marine environment of cargo or oil are also included;
  • measures to facilitate the removal of wrecks, including rights and obligations to remove hazardous ships and wrecks, which sets out when the ship owner is responsible for removing the wreck and when a government may intervene;
  • liability of the ship owner for the costs of locating, marking and removing ships and wrecks. The registered ship owner is required to maintain compulsory insurance or other financial security to cover liability under the convention; and
  • settlement of disputes.

As previously stated, the WRC provides a legal basis for coastal states to remove, or have removed, from their coastlines, wrecks that pose a hazard to the safety of navigation or to the marine and coastal environments, or both.

The Convention makes ship owners financially liable. It requires them to possess insurance or provide other financial security to cover the costs of wreck removal. In conjunction with the financial means, the WRC provides those affected countries with a means of direct action against insurers.

To show proof of insurance, any vessel, including yachts of 300 gross tons and greater, must obtain a Wreck Removal Convention Certificate (WRCC). Normally, this certificate is obtained from the vessel’s flag state. However, there are a limited number of nations that have signed the Convention. These include Antigua and Barbuda, Bulgaria, Congo, Cook Islands, Denmark, Germany, India, Iran, Liberia, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Morocco, Nigeria, Palau, Tuvalu, and the United Kingdom.

So what does this mean for a yacht? The nations listed above require that any applicable vessel flying their flag and those vessels visiting their waters must have a WRCC.

If your yacht is visiting one of these countries, but your flag state has not yet adopted the Convention and is not issuing the WRCC, do not panic. Several of these flags have established a system for obtaining the WRCC through them, for a fee. From research, the easiest and lowest cost option appears to be Liberia. The entire application process is offered electronically.  Visit its website at

Currently, enforcement is not at a heightened level. However, as more parties adopt the Convention, this will change. It is recommended that captains coordinate with their hull insurance carriers to ensure that this new regulation is addressed.

Capt. Jake DesVergers is chief surveyor for International Yacht Bureau (IYB), an organization that provides flag-state inspection services to yachts on behalf of several administrations. A deck officer graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, he previously sailed as master on merchant ships, acted as designated person for a shipping company, and served as regional manager for an international classification society. Contact him at +1 954-596-2728 or Comments on this column are welcome at


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