Shipwreck Protected Zones

Shipwreck protected zones 2011

Protected zones are declared for a small number of fragile and highly significant historic shipwrecks.

Of the almost 700 shipwrecks in the state of Victoria only nine have been placed inside protected zones. These protected zones vary in size and not all protected zones are identified by pylons or danger marks. But they are all marked on navigational charts and it is the responsibility of the boat operator to know where these zones are located.

Shipwrecks automatically become historic wrecks under State and Commonwealth legislation once they are 75 years or older. Younger wrecks can be declared historic on a case-by-case basis. The legislation also provides for the declaration of protected zones around particularly significant and/or fragile historic shipwrecks. Protected Zones are no-entry zones to a maximum radius of 500m placed around a wreck site.

It is an offence to enter, anchor, fish, trawl or dive in a protected zone without a permit. People found within a protected zone without a permit can be issued with on-the-spot fines of over $280 and multiple fines can be issued if more than one offence is detected. If prosecuted, people may be issued with fines of almost $7000.

The appropriate nautical charts for the nine wrecks are:

AUS 158    Port Phillip South and West Channels
AUS 143    Port Phillip and The Rip
AUS 182    Approaches to Corner Inlet and Port Albert

The nine protected zones are:

SS Alert
-38. 486944
144. 750556
500m radius
HMVS Cerberus
-37. 967382
145. 007876
0.5h rectangle
SS City of Launceston
-38. 076829
144. 826321
250m radius
-38. 202570
144. 723253
100m radius
PS Clonmel
-38. 744000
146. 677800
50m radius
SS Glenelg
500m radius
-38. 207960
144. 730102
100m radius
William Salthouse
-38. 272943
144. 705493
250m radius
Will O’ the Wisp
-38. 241498
144. 701159
50m radius

Access to Historic Shipwrecks and protected zones

Recreational fishing

Anglers are allowed to fish near the majority of historic shipwreck sites - only historic shipwrecks in declared protected zones are off-limits to boat access.

However, anglers should be careful about placement of their anchors (and also weighted shot lines) because it is illegal to interfere with, damage or destroy historic shipwrecks and severe penalties apply.

Damage to historic shipwrecks can occur as a result of dragging and recovering anchors. Historic shipwrecks are fragile structures that often have weakened and vulnerable hull remains due to their long submersion underwater. There are sometimes loose artefacts on the surface of the seabed on or near historic shipwrecks that can also be easily damaged and destroyed.

Recreational Diving

SCUBA divers are allowed to access almost all historic shipwrecks for their recreational diving activities. In fact, Heritage Victoria encourages suitably qualified and experienced SCUBA divers to enjoy Victoria’s historic shipwrecks as it is a marvellous way to explore and interact with our significant underwater heritage places.

All historic shipwrecks have heritage value, and they are often fragile sites. It is an offence to interfere with, damage or disturb historic shipwreck sites, or to take relics from them, and heavy penalties apply.

Divers can apply for a permit to access protected zones for recreational diving purposes. Heritage Victoria does has a policy of issuing permits for some but not all of these sites. For instance, although a fragile site, the protected zone around the William Salthouse prevents general access but allows recreational diving with a permit.


Heritage Victoria recognises that if significant places are to have a future, they need to be protected. Permits help protect the important features of heritage places and objects on the Victorian Heritage Register and underwater heritage places are no exception.

To apply for a permit to dive a protected shipwreck in Victorian waters, complete the Permit Application Form. For a permit to dive a protected shipwreck in Commonwealth waters, complete the online form at the Department of Environment’s website.