Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Ligan Definition:

Also "lagan"; things thrown from a ship and attached to a float or buoy to mark their location.

Related Terms: Flotsam, Jetsam, Wreck

Frequently spelled lagan, it is a important term in maritime law as the status of an object found at sea and apparently abandoned or found submerged or floating unattended has significant consequences as to ownership. Some such items can have great value.

Thus, the law has distinguished between flotsam, jetsam and ligan in the context of ownership or salvage entitlement, derelicts and wrecks.

William Blackstone, at paragraph 292 of his Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book I, wrote eloquently:

"... in order to constitute a legal wreck, the goods must come to land. If they continue at sea, the law distinguishes them by the barbarous and uncouth appellations of jetsam, flotsam and ligan.

"Jetsam is where goods are cast into the sea and there sink and remain under water.

"Flotsam is where they continue swimming on the surface of the waves.

"Ligan is where they are sunk in the sea, but tied to a cork or buoy in order to be found again."

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