Salvage and Recovery Services

At RS Divers, we offer an experienced, fast service to recover vessels, cargo or valued possessions. Have an emergency? Call us on 02393 190 409


Any vessel can suffer an unfortunate accident, whether that’s down to strong tides, adverse weather, machine failure and countless other scenarios. RS Divers have extensive experience in salvaging all types of vessels and cargo on behalf of private owners, insurance companies, the marine industry and commercial enterprises. We take on both planned wreckage projects and emergency recovery all over the UK.

You can rely on our skills and experience to recover your vessel or belongings. We offer a fast call-out service to respond to your emergency at speed, giving you the best chance to get your vessel out of the water with minimal impact.

We know that an unexpected salvage or recovery job can leave you feeling concerned about cost. That’s why we offer a fair and consistent pricing structure so that you know how much your salvage and recovery needs will cost before we even start work. 

We work very closely with most marine insurance companies. If a boat owner requires the use of our marine salvage and recovery services to salvage their boat or yacht, we can salvage through their marine insurance.

What are Salvage & Recovery Services?

Marine recovery and salvage is the process of recovering a vessel, its cargo, or any other property that has been damaged or lost at sea. It involves locating and removing the debris from the water and assessing the condition of the vessel or property before it can be brought back to land. 

Salvage operations require specialist equipment, a great deal of expertise, and a deep understanding of maritime laws and regulations. The goal of marine salvage is to save lives, protect the environment, and minimise commercial losses caused by marine accidents.

Our Services

Our comprehensive salvage and recovery services provide a solution to a wide range of needs.

  • Search and recovery services – using side scanners, multi-beam sonars and grappling hooks to locate missing vessels.
  • Cranes and underwater rigging – we use lift bags and other buoyancy control devices to bring wrecks to the surface, as well as crane-based salvages.
  • Underwater cutting equipment – to turn wrecks, vessels or items requiring salvage into smaller pieces which can be taken to the surface.
  • Debris and seabed clearance – removal of shallow wrecks and other material in preparation for groundworks or to clear navigational paths. 
  • Boat salvage diving services – our team is equipped to recover and salvage vessels, equipment, or valuables that have submerged due to accidents, wreckage, or other circumstances.

We are on call 24/7 and ready to respond to any emergencies, as well as providing planned recoveries or support for large projects.

Our Salvage & Recovery Work

Our recent work includes:

  1. A 1923 wooden sailing yacht foundered on the shifting sandbanks off the Friesian Islands, allowing the swell to break over her and fill her with water… 

A 1923 wooden sailing yacht foundered on the shifting sandbanks off the Friesian Islands, allowing the swell to break over her and fill her with water. The family were safely recovered, but the boat started to break up and drifted away from the sandbank and towards the traffic lanes.

RS Divers were contacted by the vessel’s insurers and asked to recover her. The team headed immediately to the wreck site to perform a recce, attaching anchors to the wreckage to slow/stop any further drifting and marking the site with buoys for easy location.

A long-arm grab and lighter were subcontracted to recover her, and the team coordinated the salvage, successfully recovering what was left of her for disposal. Working with the insurance company, the sub-contractor and the German environmental agency, the salvage was successfully completed.

  1. A small fishing vessel was holed up on the Forth and sank on her berth. RS Divers were commissioned to return her to the surface…

A small fishing vessel was holed up on the Forth and sank on her berth. RS Divers were commissioned to return her to the surface and move her to a location where she could be lifted out of the water.

Four lift bags were attached to her hull and then inflated to raise her gunwhales to the surface, where pumps were then used to pump out several tons of water. While floating on the airbags, the vessel was towed to an area adjacent to a concrete hard, slings were attached under her hull, and she was safely lifted out of the water.

  1. A high-performance racing yacht was dismasted in the English Channel some 2 nm south of the Isle of Wight…

A high-performance racing yacht was dismasted in the English Channel some 2 nm south of the Isle of Wight. With the rigging, sails and carbon fibre mast being worth many hundred thousand pounds, an operation was launched to locate the mast in this heavily tidal location and recover as much of it intact if possible. 

Side-scan and multibeam sonar were used to locate the mast, 3 nm from where it had been jettisoned, allowing divers to go down in the brief lull in the tidal stream and attach lines to the mast. A multicat was then used to raise the mast and rigging, and it was safely recovered to the surface and transported back to port, clearing the seabed of the debris and allowing as much of what was recovered to be recycled and reused. 

Contact RS Divers for Salvage & Recovery Services

Here at RS Divers, we have over 30 years of experience, and our team loves what they do. We are based in Portsmouth but offer our high-quality, inshore commercial salvage services across the UK and Europe.

As an inshore company, we work in the littoral out to the 12nm limit and in any inland waterways where you may require support, including rivers, reservoirs, lakes and more.

Not only are we an experienced and professional team, but we also have excellent working relationships with many UK marinas, harbour authorities, surveyors, and insurance companies. This means that we can do the job efficiently with no wasted time, resulting in a fairly priced, cost-effective service. 

Call or email to get in touch.


How do salvage operations work?

When you contact RS Divers for support with marine salvage and recovery, we will begin by assessing the site to ensure that it is safe for recovery and identify what equipment is needed. Once this stage has been completed, depending on the situation, our commercial dive team will work swiftly to recover your vessel and any cargo while taking all steps to protect the environment and minimise any risk of pollution. 

Whatever we are recovering, we will typically utilise salvage barges and cranes as this is the most effective marine salvage equipment for the job, often allied with the use of lift bags that we fill with air once attached to the hull underwater to help raise it to the surface. Once the gunwales are at surface level, we can start to pump out the hull, having plugged any holes, and then we can either recover onto the deck or tow the hull back to port.

Does insurance cover boat salvage?

This is dependent on your policy, so it’s important to check for details on salvage or wreckage. RS Divers works closely with most marine insurance companies and can undertake work covered by your policy as appropriate.

Can you recover an abandoned wreckage I found?

We can support you in recovering an abandoned wreckage, but you need to follow the appropriate laws and guidance on reporting the wreckage, finding the owner, and then reporting what was found as part of the recovery. This process can be time-consuming, and you must be aware of the process before you commission us to complete the work for you.

How much does it cost to recover a sunken boat?

The cost of recovering a sunken boat depends on three main factors; the salvage operations required to raise the vessel, the size of the boat being salvaged, and where it has sunk/depth of water. These factors will determine the salvage strategy and therefore impact cost. 

An experienced marine salvage business such as RS Divers will give you a precise quote before the work is carried out. 

Can anyone salvage a sunken boat?

Salvaging a sunken boat involves recovering another person’s boat or cargo. The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) states salvaging a boat is a statutory duty for all seafarers.

When salvaging a sunken boat, you must be aware of associated laws. In the UK, if you salvage and recover wreck material from within UK waters, you must report the wreck to the UK Government appointed ‘Receiver of Wreck’. 

The Receiver is responsible for sourcing the owner and liaising between the owner and the finder. The Receiver remit applies to tidal water in the UK and therefore excludes inland, non-tidal lakes or rivers in the UK. Under UK Salvage Law, a person who recovers another person’s boat or cargo from danger at sea is entitled to a reward based on the value of the property saved.

What is the law on goods cast overboard?

Under Section 255 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, a wreck is defined as “jetsam, flotsam, lagan and derelict found in or on the shores of the sea or any tidal water”.

Jetsam refers to goods cast overboard to lighten a vessel in danger of sinking. The vessel may still perish. 

Flotsam refers to goods lost from a ship which has sunk or otherwise perished. Goods are recoverable because they remain afloat.

Lagan refers to goods cast overboard from a ship which afterwards perishes. The goods are buoyed so they can be recovered. 

Derelict refers to property, whether vessel or cargo, which has been abandoned and deserted at sea by those who were in charge of it without any hope of recovering it.

If a boat comes off its moorings, it isn’t typically classified as a wreck for the purposes of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, as it hasn’t been abandoned without hope of recovery. Similarly, buoys, such as data buoys, are not classed as a wreck, but buoys forming part of fishing equipment may be classed as a wreck when adrift.

Can you keep a boat if you find it?

If you find an abandoned boat, a derelict ship, a sunken wreck or wreck material, it is recommended you report your find to the Local Harbour Master. They can advise you on the next steps, which may be to report it to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The Report of Wreck and Salvage Form (MSF 6200) can be found on the government website. 

You are required to submit the form to the Marine and Coastguard Agency within 28 days of finding the wreck. Upon receipt, the Marine and Coastguard Agency will appoint the Receiver of Wreck, who will be responsible for sourcing the owner of the ship and liaising between you and the owner.

Here’s Some Evidence Of Our Diving Expertise

Our case studies demonstrate the wide range of our work, the quality of our service, the fantastic results we achieve and the wonderful feedback we receive from our clients past and present.