Saturday, August 20, 2005


Odyssey's next shipwreck bounty mired in dispute


St. Petersburg Times
By Scott Barancik
August 15, 2005

Odyssey Marine Exploration, a Tampa company that recovered a Civil War-era ship laden with gold and silver coins in 2003, was poised to recover a second sunken cache this year, this time in the western Mediterranean Sea.

But an unexpected and ongoing tussle with Spanish officialdom has delayed Odyssey's recovery of the HMS Sussex, a 17th century British warship.

It's a frustrating ordeal. Odyssey executives spent months finalizing an unprecedented agreement with the British government in which the parties would jointly excavate, conserve, exhibit and market collectibles found on the ship and share proceeds. Because the ship is in international waters, no other country needed to be consulted. The Sussex was believed to have sunk with coins now worth hundreds of millions of dollars onboard.

But signs of trouble emerged in April, when Odyssey said it was suspending operations at the shipwreck site for 15 days to give the Spanish government time to review the project. Those 15 days have morphed into months.

In a quarterly earnings statement issued Wednesday, the company said only that talks with Spanish national and regional officials were continuing and that the issues would probably be resolved "prior to commencement of work at the (wreck site) later this year." No details were provided on the underlying dispute.

Coverage in the European press has been somewhat closer. According to a May article in the British tabloid Express, the Spanish regional government of Andalucia claims the Sussex lies in or near Spanish waters.


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