The Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has started a cooperation with the Netherlands Coast Guard for the protection of maritime heritage in the Dutch part of the North Sea. During a pilot project, whether supervision of shipwrecks can be assigned to the Coast Guard on a structural basis.

Maritime heritage concerns shipwrecks that need extra supervision because of their archaeological and historical value. For the preservation of these shipwrecks, supervision and enforcement are important.

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has made the Public Information and Heritage Inspectorate (Inspectie Overheidsinformatie en Erfgoed) the formal supervisor of maritime heritage. However, the Inspectorate itself does not have any vessels. This makes cooperation with the Coast Guard essential as its has the resources to supervise wreck sites and support enforcement.


The cooperation between the Ministry and the Coast Guard is being investigated in a pilot project. This pilot will run until September 2021. At the moment, the Coast Guard carries out eight monitoring tasks on behalf of six ministries. During the pilot project, it will be investigated whether the shipwreck supervision tasks can also be assigned to the Coast Guard on a structural basis.

Coastguard Command Centre.

Dutch Heritage Act

Thousands of wrecks lie on the bottom of the North Sea, many of which are part of the maritime heritage. Shipwrecks and archaeological remains belonging to the maritime heritage may not be excavated without an excavation certificate. Loose objects lying on the seabed may not be excavated, moved or taken away. This is laid down in the Dutch Heritage Act (Erfgoedwet).

Diving at wreck sites is permitted unless this results in the disruption, displacement or removal of cultural heritage. If archaeological remains are found during diving trips, then it is allowed to photograph them, but not to take them or move them.

Picture (top): Shipwreck of SS Anglia sunk February 1903 sidescan sonar (by Rijkswaterstaat).

Shipwreck of ram monitor Dutch naval vessel Adder, which sunk July 1882, multi-beam image (by Rijkswaterstaat).