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The Santa Maria Case


One of the most renowned maritime law cases involving the Dominican Republic is the "Columbus Lighthouse Case" or "El Faro a Colón Case." The Columbus Lighthouse, also known as the Faro a Colón, is a prominent monument in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, constructed to honor Christopher Columbus.


The case revolves around a legal dispute between the Dominican Republic and a U.S. salvage company, Aqua Survey Inc. In 1998, Aqua Survey filed a lawsuit claiming that they had discovered the wreck of Christopher Columbus's flagship, the Santa Maria, near the Columbus Lighthouse site. The company sought salvage rights and ownership over the wreck, asserting that it could be a historically significant find.



The case attracted international attention due to the potential historical and cultural significance of the Santa Maria. The Dominican Republic contested Aqua Survey's claims and argued that the wreck was not the Santa Maria but a different ship. The government asserted ownership over the wreck and sought to protect it as part of the country's cultural heritage.


The legal battle involved extensive research, expert testimony, and archaeological investigations to determine the identity and ownership of the wreck. The case raised significant questions about salvage rights, underwater cultural heritage preservation, and the balance between archaeological exploration and commercial interests.


Ultimately, the legal dispute ended with the Dominican Republic retaining ownership of the wreck. The court ruled that Aqua Survey had not provided sufficient evidence to establish that the wreck was the Santa Maria. The case highlighted the importance of maritime law in

protecting and preserving cultural heritage and underscored the Dominican Republic's commitment to safeguarding its historical treasures.


The Columbus Lighthouse case remains a notable example of a maritime law dispute that intersected with archaeology, cultural heritage, and national identity. It serves as a reminder of the intricate legal considerations

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