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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Treasure Hunting Ship Boarded by Spanish Authorities

Treasure Hunter Odyssey Explorer
I'm translating this story from a Spanish Online News magazine so please bear with me. Given my limited understanding of the language, chances are I've gotten a lot of the details seriously messed up. (#Note: If you speak Spanish, and can translate, please go here:
and then post corrections in the comment section. Just click on the comment link at the bottom of this post. Thanks.)

Spanish authorities boarded the Treasure Hunter Ship Odyssey Explorer after it departed from Gibraltar. The ship had been engaged in salvage operations in waters off the coast and had recovered some $500,000 worth of silver ingots or coins from a Spanish shipwreck code named the Black Swan. (The actual value of the treasure is still a matter of speculation.)

The Spanish government claims all its shipwrecks, regardless of age, to be state owned property, a policy shared by most other world governments. However, in most, if not all cases, the Maritime Law of Finds and the Maritime Law of Salvage is used as a means of superseding a government's claim of ownership. These wrecks, having been submerged and unclaimed for so long, are considered abandoned property. Meanwhile, this particular case is further complicated by the geopolitical brouhaha between Spain and Portugal.

The Odyssey Explorer was met by a Spanish warship not long after it left Gibraltar. She was escorted back to Spanish waters because of unfavorable wind and sea conditions, the actual boarding and seizure of the vessel's log and some of its findings taking place in a Spanish port. I'm not certain if the vessel and or its crew have been arrested or seized. (A more recent report suggest the vessel is under blockade.)

This story will be an interesting one to watch as both the Spanish government and the Odyssey Explorer's owners fight over the treasure and the legality of the boarding and seizure.

(For a BBC Update to this story click here.)


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