Odyssey To Recover Silver From Shipwrecks

May 31, 2012

U.S. based Odyssey Marine Exploration, co-founded by former Bermuda Premier Dr. David Saul, announced that the M/V Seabed Worker has departed port and is on its way to begin operations to recover the anticipated silver cargoes from the SS Gairsoppa and SS Mantola shipwrecks off the south west coast of the Republic of Ireland.

Historical records indicate the Gairsoppa was carrying up to seven million ounces of silver and the Mantola was carrying approximately 600,000 ounces of silver when each sank. Odyssey discovered both shipwrecks in 2011 and conducted a series of reconnaissance dives to both sites in March and April 2012.

Port side entrance way to the ‘crew galley’ of the SS Mantola shipwreck:

Both the Gairsoppa and Mantola projects are being conducted under contract with the UK Department for Transport. Under these contracts, which follow standard commercial practices, Odyssey will retain 80% of the net salved value of the cargoes after recovery of expenses.

According to the BBC, the silver on the Mantola would be worth about £12m [$18.5 million] at current market values, and the Gairsoppa contained an estimated seven million ounces of silver, said to be worth about £150m [$232 million].

Both merchant ships were torpedoed by German submarines, the Gairsoppa during WWII and the Mantola during WWI. At that time, the UK government insured privately owned cargo under their War Risk Insurance program.

Odyssey has chartered Swire Seabed’s 291-foot Seabed Worker for this recovery operation. The Seabed Worker is equipped with advanced deep-ocean capabilities, including the specialized tools necessary to salvage modern steel wrecks, such as redundant deep ROV systems and a 100-ton active heave compensated crane.

Odyssey has also acquired advanced specialty tooling for the project that will provide exceptional flexibility in accessing the bullion.

Ladder leading to the forecastle deck of the SS Gairsoppa:

“Modern steel wrecks such as Gairsoppa and Mantola require an advanced set of tools capable of surgically cutting through steel decks and removing bullion. After stringent review of available capabilities, we believe Seabed Worker is perfect for these projects,” said Mark Gordon, Odyssey COO & President.

“The ship has the ability to carry up to 300 tons of cargo below her decks. With the potential of over 240 tons of silver that may be brought up from both sites, we’re confident that we’ve brought together the right team, the tools and transport features necessary to make this a secure and successful operation.”

After five years of legal wrangling, Odyssey was forced to hand over $500 million haul of gold and silver coins earlier this year to Spain that they salvaged from a Spanish ship that sunk 200 years ago.

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