North Sea shipwrecks given greater protection

Some 350 wrecks dating from the First and Second World Wars are still to be found in Belgian waters.  Philippe De Backer, Minister for the North Sea, wants to increase the number of such wrecks that are protected.  All wrecks over a century old are immediately protected.  The aim is to ensure wrecks aren't looted.

Finds are still being made.  Last year divers found a German U-boat or submarine off Port Zeebrugge.

Philippe De Backer: "The wrecks tell a dark story in our European history, but one that determined our society today.  It is important to cherish and protect these memories."

Ship wrecks have a historical but also an ecological and even recreational value.  Often they are destroyed or looted.  Fresh legislation that also applies in international waters hopes to put an end to this.  At present eleven wrecks are protected in Belgian waters.  They remain accessible to divers, but activities that can harm them including being used as an anchorage, line fishing and dredging are banned. Recognised wrecks also feature on mariners' charts.

The treasures of our North Sea feature in an exhibition at the Antwerp Natiënhuis until 28 October.  It is open Friday through Sunday from 1PM till 6PM.