Dispute after Sydney to Hobart yacht wrecked in Tasmania
A salvage dispute has erupted over the ownership of a racing yacht that washed up in Tasmania, after local Indigenous rights groups claimed they are entitled to a third of the vessel’s value.
The yacht Huntress was abandoned at sea after being damaged during the 2022/3 Sydney to Hobart race. Water police were called to rescue the crew of the 40-foot yacht on 28 December 2022, after the vessel struck an unidentified object, which tore off a section of its rudder. Skipper Victoria Logan has told media she believes the object was most likely a sunfish.
Logan and her seven crewmates were safely rescued, and the yacht was cut loose and left to drift at sea. Overnight (8 January 2023), it was refloated by Total Dive Solutions and is reportedly being towed back to safe harbour in the Tamar River, in northern Tasmania, today.
But Michael Mansell, chair of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania, says the insurance company should not have salvaged the yacht, because “any vessels wrecked or washed up on the shores of Aboriginal land belongs to Aborigines”.
@rshyr yacht Huntress was abandoned on 28 Dec off Ansons Bay & drifted north to wash ashore on Aboriginal Land— Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania (@ALCTlutruwita) January 5, 2023
She looks largely intact on Christmas Beach on truwana/Cape Barren Is
We’re hoping salvage is swift, safe & successful as she poses a risk remote & pristine Country pic.twitter.com/z07f2TmxIx
Speaking to ABC News, he adds: “We do not give permission for the insurers to move the vessel Huntress,” and implored that the vessel should not be removed until one-third of its value is paid, or the owners agree that Aborigines own the vessel.
Mansell points out that other vessels have been claimed under the old Indigenous sea law practice, which has been exercised in the area since the mid-1800s.
The salvage company reportedly sought permission to come to the island and would have been under the impression it was allowed to remove the boat. John Kavanagh from Pacific Maritime Lawyers told ABC he would be “surprised if there was any legal substance” to Mansell’s claims, adding: “The common law of salvage does not change the underlying title in the vessel.”
The council says it is now assessing its next steps, and will take further action if it believes it has a case.