Navigation Protection Program (NPP) Regional Managers are designated as the Receivers of Wreck (ROW) and are responsible for administering the provisions of Part 4 in the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act. The Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act strengthens the protections afforded to owners and salvagers, and contains enhanced enforcement powers. The key role for the Receivers of Wreck is to act as a custodian of a wreck in the absence of the rightful owner. Before taking possession (or salvaging) of a wreck or vessel, the salvor must notify the Receiver of Wreck.
A wreck can be a vessel, ship, boat or aircraft, or anything that was part of or was on those craft, that has been wrecked, stranded, in distress, derelict, aground, sunk or partially sunk.
On this page
- Reporting vessels or wrecks
- Salvage an abandoned boat or wreck
- Salvage award
- Wrecks that are protected
- Salvage of a wreck: Notify the Receiver of Wreck
- Vessel or wreck removal programs
Reporting vessels or wrecks
If you’re not salvaging a vessel or wreck but want to report it, contact a Canadian Coast Guard regional office or a Navigation Protection Program regional Offices.
For more information, consult About the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act.
Salvage an abandoned boat or wreck
Salvage means saving a vessel or its cargo from loss. A salvor is the person reporting and taking possession of a wreck when permitted by the Receiver of Wreck.
Duties to report a wreck
Any person salvaging a wreck must try to find an owner to get permission before they salvage a wreck. If the person can’t find an owner, the person must then notify the Receiver of Wreck at a regional office of the Navigation Protection Program regional Offices before taking any action in regards to the wreck. If the person with the intent of securing the wreck deems the wreck to be in any kind of danger, the person can secure it before contacting the Receiver of Wreck. If a person imports a wreck, the person has to report it as soon as possible when entering Canada.
The Receiver of Wreck will act as a custodian on behalf of the rightful owner and attempt to locate that owner.
If an owner isn’t found, the Receiver of Wreck may release the wreck to any person salvaging the wreck. The Receiver of Wreck may also choose to sell, give away, destroy or use other means to dispose of the wreck.
After notifying the Receiver of Wreck, the Receiver of Wreck will give the person salvaging the wreck instructions on their obligations, according to the About the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act.
Penalties for not reporting
Failing to report a wreck whose owner is unknown or cannot be located to the Receiver of Wreck before taking possession can be a violation or an offence under the Act. For violations, this could include a monetary penalty of up to $5,000 for individuals or $25,000 for any other person or vessel (including corporations). For offences, this could include fines of up to $300,000 and/or prison terms for individuals, or up to $4,000,000 for any other person or vessel (including corporations).
Any person who salvages a wreck is entitled to reasonable costs and expenses for salvage. If no owner can be found, the person who salvages a wreck may be awarded the wreck, or receive money from its sale. The reward can’t be more than the wreck’s value.
If the owner claims the wreck
The Receiver of Wreck must give the wreck or the proceeds of its sale to an owner who is found and successfully claims the wreck. However, the owner must pay the person who salvages a wreck for salvage costs and expenses, within reason.
Wrecks that are protected
Some wrecks are protected as cultural or heritage resources. Other wrecks are in protected areas such as parks and conservation areas.
Salvors or any person may not disturb the following types of wrecks without special permission:
- wrecks of historical or archaeological value
- wrecks in marine protected areas
- military wrecks
For more information on historical, archaeological or military wrecks, please visit Parks Canada.
Salvage of a wreck: Notify the Receiver of Wreck
You must have the right of possession before salvaging, removing or disposing of a wreck.
To take possession of a wreck and apply for funding for its removal or disposal:
- Try to find the wreck’s owner to get permission. Consult the page Tips for finding a boat owner.
- If you can’t find the owner, send notice to the Receiver of Wreck to ask for permission to salvage the wreck. Receiver of Wreck officials are in regional Navigation Protection Program offices across Canada
Vessel or wreck removal programs
The Government of Canada has launched two (2) programs to assess, remove or dispose of vessels and wrecks. Contact one of the programs below, depending on what waterway the vessel or wreck is in:
- For any vessel or wreck found Canadian waters (with the exception of Small Craft Harbours), please contact Transport Canada's Abandoned Boats Program
- For any vessel or wreck found in federal small craft harbours owned by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, please contact the Small Craft Harbours (SCH) Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program