Sunday, March 12, 2006

 

Admiralty pulls out of search for US$1.2 billion Spanish booty off Jamaican shores

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The Jamaica Observer
By Al Edwards
March 10, 2006



Us based marine salvage outfit Admiralty Holding Company has pulled out from its search for Spanish precious metals and artifacts valued at US$1.2 billion on the Pedro Banks, and instead conducted a bathymetric search for oil also on the Pedro Banks which has just been concluded.

Back in 1999 Admiralty was awarded a licence to search for shipwrecks on the Pedro Banks. This would be a joint venture between the Government of Jamaica and Admiralty Holding Company. All non-precious materials found would belong to Jamaica whereas precious metals and stones found in whole or in part would be split 50/50 between Admiralty and the Government of Jamaica. Admiralty would have to pay taxes of 33 per cent on what was discovered with an additional 3 per cent going to the United States.

Between 1999 and 2004, the exploration initiative was stalled as a result of financial difficulties encountered by Admiralty and concluding compliance issues with Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), Department of Fisheries, Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard and NEPA.

Admiralty engaged the services of the New World Legacy ship to undergo the search for the sunken treasure in May 2004. Within 14 days they discovered 7 ships, three of which were Spanish galleons dating back to 1691, with artifacts and treasures Admiralty places at a value of US$1.2 billion.

The company says that it has the capability of raising these ships from the sea floor but that JNHT in particular has been resistant to excavating the wrecks.

Admiralty says that it has been waiting for over a year to get the necessary approval and that during that time it has cost it US$2000 a day to maintain and crew the New World Legacy. The company claims that this project has cost it to date US$2 million.

The contract with the Government expired in November 2005 with Admiralty looking to get a referral and Recommendation from the JNHT to the Ministry of Education to continue excavating and bringing the treasures to the surface. This recommendation has yet to be made.

Speaking with Caribbean Business Report yesterday, Admirality Holding Company's Vice President for Marine Permitting Clarence Lott III said: " To remain idle for over a year has been rather costly. We had hoped that the relevant agencies would have granted us approval to go ahead with this important historical work but that hasn't happened. We decided it was important to make some money so we took a job last month conducting a bathymetric survey for oil on the Pedro Banks for about US$96,000 using the New World Legacy."

Admiralty Holding Company announced earlier this week that it had completed its contract with Fugro Survey Caribbean Inc to perform a bathymetric survey in the waters of Jamaica.

Fugro Survey is owned by Fugro, a Dutch seismic survey and exploration company with worldwide operations. Fugro intends to conduct seismic surveys in the area to search for indications of oil.

In order to gather seismic data, Fugro intends to use an array that is approximately 8,000 metres long. Because the area of interest contains reefs and other obstructions and it is not accurately charted, Fugro requires information concerning water depths and obstructions to avoid any risk of the array becoming tangled or damaged. The work generated over US$100,000 in gross revenues, and net revenues to Admiralty were just over US$96,000, after deducting commissions. The contractor provided fuel.

The New World Legacy is now bound for site work off the coast of Florida.

Clarence Lott III said: "I'm disappointed that we had to pull out of Jamaica because this project was put together way back in 1997. An opportunity has been lost here to make money and history at the same time. We requested permission to identify what was found down there and that was not forthcoming. Perhaps the treasures will remain on the floor of Pedro Banks for posterity. Jamaica would have received a lot of positive exposure with very little financial risks.

"We made a commitment to Jamaica, donating computers to schools and providing material costs for the building of a 24-hour guardhouse on the Port Royal JDF coast guard base."

He believes that it is important to verify the identity of the ships. Once the ships are identified as the 1691 fleet, the manifests for those three ships (from the Spanish Archives in Sevilla, Spain) can be given validity.

The valuations of the ships are based on gold and silver prices from 2004 and the price of gold has increased by over US$100.00 per ounce since then.

"We wanted Jamaica to be a showcase project for Admiralty and doing anything, in an inappropriate manner, would be counter productive," added Clarence Lott III.


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