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The history of Vrouw Maria™

Vrouw Maria leaves Amsterdam on route to St. Petersburg, loaded with art treasures.

October 3rd
Vrouw Maria is grounded southwest of Turku, at the time a part of the Swedish territorial coastline, (later to be Finnish territory). The cargo is of European Cultural Heritage, bought by Catharine the Great of Russia, and couldn't be rescued.

The search for Vrouw Maria ends and she is over time forgotten.

Vrouw Maria documents are found in the archives by Dr Christian Ahlström and the search resumes.

The mystery of Vrouw Maria is solved through a discovery made by Rauno Koivusaari and his team.

A number of claims was presented in the Turku Maritime Court by Rauno Koivusaari & Co (further RK & Co). Among those were the First Salvors Right and Title to the Shipwreck itself (excluding the Cargo belonged to the Finnish state on the basis of a clear statutory provision of the Antiquities Act).

The Court had to address the question of applicable law before considering the merits of the claims. The state alleged that the Antiquities Act as a special law (which did not recognize any Right of Salvage) superseded the Maritime Code (which contained provisions on salvage).

Who owns Vrouw Maria. Here Raunos comment to the current way of handling this search and salvaging industry. © Mageia

September 19th
The Turku Maritime Court, chaired by one judge, passed an interlocutory judgment stating that both laws were applicable. The conclusion made by the Court was that the provisions on salvage of the Maritime Code were applicable.

After the interlocutory judgment the state requested that the matter should be decided by three judges instead of one. The spectacular thing was that it indicates that the state felt uncomfortable with leaving the matter to be decided by one judge (who had already concluded that the Maritime Code was applicable). This request was however in line with the provisions of the Procedural Code.

The Finnish Antiquities Act was amended and a new provisionwas introduced. The amended law stated if it was obvious that a ship owner had abandoned his ship and it had sunk for at least 100 years ago, The Title to the Shipwreck belonged to the state without redemption. This amendment came into force with retroactive effect, and was introduced to improve the state´s position in the pending proceedings with regard to Title to the Wreck.


June 16th
The Turku Maritime Court rendered its judgment, now with three judges, passed by a majority vote (2 new judges – 1 original judge). All claims of RK & Co were rejected. The provisions of the Antiquities Act prevented RK & Co from the Title to the Wreck.
RK & Co were ordered to pay the legal costs of the state.

RK & Co appealed the judgment to the Turku Court of Appeal. To prevent interest from running on the legal costs until the Appeal was decided on, RK & Co paid the costs for the state.

March 23rd
The Court of Appeal reversed the Maritime Court´s decision to order RK & Co to pay the legal costs of the state. The state later was sentenced to repay. The Court of Appeal re-acknowledged RK & Co´s First Salvors Right, but simultaneously stated that the state was entitled to prohibit any salvage operation by RK & Co. This had also been done previously by the state/Maritime Museum.

November 24th
The Supreme Court rendered a judgment rejecting the application for Leave to appeal, but never set out any reasons why.

RK & Co appeals to the European Court of Human Rights.

Exchanges of written pleadings/observations have taken part in the European Court of Human Rights.
A standpoint from the Court of Human Rights will possibly be given within a year.

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