Culture and heritage

Maritime heritage

Managing maritime heritage

How is maritime archaeological heritage managed and protected?

State and Commonwealth legislation protects underwater cultural heritage in Australia. Management is also guided by the Code of Ethics of the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology (AIMA).

In New South Wales, the Heritage Branch of the Office of Environment and Heritage has prime responsibility for this and other maritime heritage. Agencies such as NSW Marine Parks Authority, NSW Roads & Maritime Services, NSW Police and local government also manage particular sites and enforce legislation.

The Commonwealth Government has a coordinating role for both land based maritime heritage and historic shipwrecks through the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

Associated links

Listed below are all the related documents and files for the Managing Maritime Heritage section of the website. Click on any hyperlink to download or view the associated files or web pages.


Archaeological investigation is governed by a strict Code of Ethics to ensure that sites and their artefacts are properly documented and protected.

AIMA Code of Ethics (AIMACodeofEthics.pdf 19KB)
The work of maritime archaeologists in Australia is subject to a Code of Ethics issued by the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology (AIMA).


Key legislation
There are two main pieces of legislation which protect historic shipwrecks and other submerged heritage in NSW.

Protecting NSW shipwrecks
Identifying, Protecting and Managing Historic Shipwrecks under the Heritage Act 1977 (NSW). What is an historic shipwreck? Shipwrecks are an important part of our heritage.

Wreck Inspector powers
A summary of Wreck Inspector Powers under the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.

Managing Maritime Heritage in NSW

Information about specific maritime heritage management programs and documents.

NSW Maritime Archaeology Advisory Panel
The NSW Maritime Archaeology Advisory Panel (MAAP) is a non-statutory panel established in 1988.

NSW Maritime Archaeology program
The Heritage Branch runs the State's Maritime Archaeology and Heritage program.

Marine park shipwreck management principles (MarineParkShipwreckManagementPrinciples.pdf, 67KB)
Marine park shipwrecks and other underwater relics: Management Principles

Maritime Archaeology

Information about maritime archaeological heritage.

Excavating maritime archaeological sites
Relics are typically found resting in a stable environment, with little or no oxygen, little or no light and low, constant temperatures.

Maritime archaeology - an overview
(Courtesy of the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology) Maritime Archaeology is one section of the general field of archaeological study.

What is maritime archaeology?
Studying of people through what they leave behind underwater.

Maritime Heritage

What is maritime heritage?
As well as the ships maritime heritage includes the support network for those ships, goods and people.

Reporting and recording sites

Guidelines on what you can do to report discovery of new sites and to undertake research and site recording.

What can you do?
Archaeological excavation is a specialised field which must be supervised by a trained archaeologist. Volunteers can help though.

Wreck reporting form (wreckreportingform.doc, 47KB)
Shipwreck Reporting Form - for use when an historic shipwreck is found.

Page last updated: 24 October 2012