Ownership Abandoned


Steven Hall

Member
Dec 17, 2008
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Just a quick and somewhat curious question ? At what point during the sinking (or after) would the ships ownership have been legally considered abandoned.
Additionally — could the British Royal Mail (postal services) still make claim to ownership of the mail in the ships hull.
I read recently that a letter addressed (with a stamp on it) to Adolf Hitler was still obliged to be delivered to the address.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
Unless an official declaration is made by the owners, I don't think it ever is. It might come as a surprise to some to find that even sunken ships have owners, be they the original buyers, the insurance companies that paid off on the loss, or whoever comes along and purchases the wreck from whoever has title. The HMHS Britannic is a case in point and which is currently owned by Simon Mills.

Regarding the mails, as I understand it, if it were to be recovered from the Titanic, the Royal Mail would have a legal obligation to *try* to deliver same to the addressee or the addressee's legal heirs, assigns, agents, or other lawful representatives if the addressee is deceased.

(I don't think anybody would worry about Adolf Hitler. His only living relations don't want any part of him.)

I hope Noel Jones sees this as I've a hunch he's a lot more familier with the law behind this.
 

Noel F. Jones

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May 14, 2002
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Here is a succinct exposition of UK law relating to wreck. Other sovereign maritime jurisdictions will have an office similar to that of the UK Receiver of Wreck. Presumably any items of mail recovered will be dealt with accordingly.

http://www.mcga.gov.uk/c4mca/mcga-environmental/mcga-receiver_of_wreck/mcga-dops_row_law.htm

Here is another less precise exposition. Note the apparent conflict re wreck originating from the high seas or elsewhere but otherwise landed in the UK. I would elect the former as the more reliable exposition.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/archaeology/marine_receive1.shtml

As to title, the insured portions of ownership of hull and cargo become subrogated to underwriters upon settlement of the various claims relating thereto but an item of, say, baggage, mail or personal effects would be outside of such settlement and thus subject to the uncomplexed law of wreck.

The above does not purport to be a complete or definitive exposition of the relevant law.

Noel