Tuesday, January 31, 2006

 

Odyssey Marine Provides Sussex Update

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Press Release
January 30, 2006


TAMPA -- Odyssey Marine Exploration provided a Sussex project update today.

Odyssey announced it has completed archeological and environmental survey operations it believes fulfill the requirements of Phase 1A, and a substantial portion of Phase 1B, which includes gathering archaeological evidence to identify the site believed to be HMS Sussex. (Odyssey's Sussex project plan is available for public viewing at http://www.shipwreck.net.)

Odyssey's archaeological team has prepared a report which is currently being finalized for submission to Her Majesty's Government (HMG) pursuant to the Sussex archaeological project plan. In addition, archaeological evidence gathered at the site is being submitted for lab analysis to assist in corroborating the identity of the shipwreck.

If analysis of this evidence supports the presumption that the site is the Sussex, that data will be incorporated into a second report as required in Phase 1B, and submitted to HMG for comment and approval. Upon approval of the archaeological report by HMG, the report will be provided to the Spanish government pursuant to the initial diplomatic communication (nota verbal) issued by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 28, 2005.

A subsequent nota verbal was communicated to Odyssey through the same diplomatic channels on January 26, 2006, requesting that Odyssey suspend operations until the Junta of Andalucia appoints an expert to observe operations on the site believed to be the Sussex. It was further declared that the Junta did not appoint an expert because the Junta believed that Odyssey was working without appropriate authorization and that the Project Plan presented by Odyssey did not comply with the applicable Andalucian legislation as requested by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

When operating in territorial waters of any country, the Company has always done so with the appropriate authorizations. In the case of the Sussex project, because of regional sensitivities over the issue of the territorial status of the waters, and in accordance with diplomatic requests, the Company's agreements of cooperation were made without prejudice to any jurisdictional claims relative to the territorial status of waters. Thus, the assertion of any claim to those waters or the assertion of any rights based on such claims, is not consistent with the diplomatic discussions relative to the project.

Odyssey did, in fact, submit a Project Plan to the Spanish Government through diplomatic channels that was believed to comply with all applicable requirements. In good faith, the Company began operations on the Sussex after submission of the Project Plan and subsequent assurance by the Spanish Government through diplomatic channels that failure of the Junta to appoint an expert to join the operation would not be considered a failure of Odyssey to comply with the cooperative agreement pursuant to the nota verbal. In addition, assurances were provided to Odyssey through diplomatic channels as recently as January 13, 2006 that there would be no interference with operations relating to the Sussex.

The recent nota verbal from Spain appears to be a contradiction of that position, and the Company trusts that the inconsistency has resulted from ambiguity and possible miscommunications relative to jurisdictional issues. In the interest of maintaining a cooperative situation, Odyssey is currently preparing to resubmit the archaeological project plan through diplomatic channels to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition, an invitation has been extended again to have an expert from Andalucia join the expedition.

In the meantime, the Company is planning to file legal action against boat operators who have endangered their own vessels, the Company's ship Odyssey Explorer and its crew by violating numerous maritime regulations, failing to provide sufficient operational clearance, failing to respond to radio calls, and engaging in clear violations of International maritime conventions. Odyssey will also seek relief before the competent courts to prevent any potential interference with ongoing operations on the Sussex site.

"We have been very disappointed in the unprofessional and dangerous behavior that some of the local vessels have engaged in during the course of our operations," said Greg Stemm, co-founder of Odyssey Marine Exploration. "It is distressing to see the casual attitude that some local Captains take toward marine laws and safety, a matter we take very seriously. On numerous occasions during the past weeks, we have seen small local boats approach our ship in a careless manner, apparently not realizing the danger of their actions. The thrusters that are engaged during dynamic positioning operations present a serious threat to small vessels that come too close, which is why we request a safe working perimeter through the Notice to Mariners. We are seeking legal redress to prevent this from happening in the future in order to avail ourselves of every avenue available before someone is seriously hurt or worse."

The Company is also exploring possible legal options to deal with news organizations and their sources who have blatantly promulgated false and misleading information, including creating false quotes attributed to Odyssey management, the use of false and misleading photographs including photos represented to be of the Sussex shipwreck site, and printing libelous claims against the Company.

While awaiting the results of the lab analysis, the official response from HMG in reference to Phase 1A and 1B and pending guidance from the United States Department of State and HMG relative to the latest nota verbal, the Company has temporarily moved the Odyssey Explorer to begin work on another project in the Western Mediterranean as part of the Company's ongoing operational program to explore numerous other valuable shipwrecks throughout the world.

The Company's other research vessel, the US flagged RV Odyssey, is remaining in Gibraltar to continue support of operations in that area.


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