Friday, May 05, 2006

 

Ghost ships give up their precious cargo

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Telegraph
By Andrew Bryson
May 02, 2006


Soaring commodity prices have inspired a new marine salvage venture to plunge the ocean depths in search of shipwrecked copper and tin.

Deep6 is seeking a £20m listing on Aim which will fund the acquisition of a second recovery vessel. The company has identified seven wrecks, containing 18,000 tonnes of metal, which it intends to salvage over the next three years.

The company hopes to attract investors in time for dealings to commence this month, with the price of copper today standing at $7,220 per tonne. A May listing would coincide with the first salvage operation by Aim-listed rivals SubSea Resources of a wreck bearing £8m in gold and silver.

Deep6 has acquired a detailed archive of more than 200 20th-century shipping and cargo losses. It will be assisted by David Mearns, a world expert in shipwreck location. The archive contains the coordinates of merchant vessels that were sunk en route to England or Germany during the Second World War.

Technological advances in remotely operated vehicles used in oil and gas exploration mean the company can recover metal at depths of up to 6,000 metres, equivalent to 97pc of the world's sea bed. This and the commodities boom have made it feasible for the first time to salvage metal from deep wrecks.

Deep6's finance director, Stephen Dover, said: "Our business model is based on copper prices at levels you were seeing a couple of years ago of around $4,000 a tonne. Obviously, we don't want to disappoint people so we are keeping our feet on the ground if prices fall back to that level." Mr Dover was tight-lipped about the location of the first project.

The company is chaired by Peter Crystal, a partner at Aim specialists Memery Crystal Solicitors and an Oxford boxing blue. David Keogh, a former Ministry of Defence salvage officer, is on board as a non-executive director.

SubSea Resources, which listed on Aim in November 2004, will begin recovery operations of tin and copper in June, lifting 6,000 tonnes from a wreck codenamed Celia. Salvage from Sally, containing 8,500 tonnes of aluminium, and Miranda, with 4,500 tonnes of nickel, will follow.

SubSea plans to recover the contents of seven wrecks worth in excess of £150m in the next two years.

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