Flotsam and jetsam

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Jetsam on a beach at Terschelling, Wadden Sea

In maritime law, flotsam, jetsam, lagan and derelict are specific kinds of shipwreck. The words have specific nautical meanings, with legal consequences in the law of admiralty and marine salvage:[1]

  • Flotsam is floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo.
  • Jetsam is part of a ship, its equipment, or its cargo that is purposely cast overboard or jettisoned to lighten the load in time of distress and that sinks or is washed ashore.
  • Lagan (also called ligan[2]) is cargo that is lying on the bottom of the ocean, sometimes marked by a buoy, which can be reclaimed.
  • Derelict is cargo that is also on the bottom of the ocean, but which no one has any hope of reclaiming (in other maritime contexts, derelict may also refer to a drifting abandoned ship).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "8 Amusing Stories Behind Common Expressions | Reader's Digest". Rd.com. 2011-11-13. Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  2. ^  "Lagan". Collier's New Encyclopedia. 1921.