A ship cemetery is a place in the coastal or fluvial landscape, where vessels are intentionally disposed off that are either too old to be savely operated, or beyond repair.
Usually, parts of the wrecks above the water-line are salvaged, scrapped and re-used, thus ship cemeteries are often found in close proximity to shipyards, where some of the retrieved parts could be re-used (cf. also maritime recycling area). In contrast to a ship trap the vessels were not intentionally scuttled as an underwater obstacle.
Archaeologically, ship cemeteries in the Baltic Sea are known from the Middle Ages onwards. The world largest historical ship cemetery is in Mallow's Bay in the Potomac River in the US states Maryland and Virginia, with remnants of more than 100 World War I era wooden steamships. These are under protection since 2019 as National Marine Sanctuary.
In fulfillment of the Blue Growth strategy a concept for the establishment of a new ship cemetery for historical shipwrecks has been devised in the German-Danish BalticRIM pilot region in Flensburg Fjord.
A ship graveyard in Luoto, Finland. Copyright: Finnish Heritage Agency, photo: Päivi Pihlanjärvi.
- H. Åkerlund 1951, Fartygsfynden i den Forna Hamnen i Kalmar (Uppsala 1951)