The State Secretary for the North Sea, Bart Tommelein (Open Vld, Liberal Democrats) has recognized a shipwreck as cultural heritage, his cabinet said on Monday. The law that makes protecting submerged objects as cultural heritage possible came into effect in November 2013. It also says that anything discovered on the sea bed should be reported to the governor of Eastern Flanders. Experts can then begin to decide whether they are cultural heritage.
The current shipwreck made of wood and is off the coast near Ostende. It is 35 meters long and 6m wide. It sticks out 2.5 meters above water. It is probably a 19th century wreck. Its identity is still being researched. Its recognition as cultural heritage is due to fact the ship dates from a period when Ostende was an international port. Also, many ships sank in this area during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The boat is remarkably well preserved. It was found by accident in March 2013 by the marine archeologist Tomas Termote. He found it when he was doing work to place an anchor for an energy producing buoy.
Around 215 shipwrecks have been recorded in the North Sea. The Westhinder, a lightship which sank in 1912, and the British destroyer HMS Wakeful, which sank in 1940, are already listed as cultural heritage. A First World War German submarine is also being considered.