Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Odyssey suspend Sussex treasure over Spanish concerns

Odyssey Marine Exploration has announced that it is temporarily suspending operations at the shipwreck site believed to be HMS Sussex for 15 days "in order to allow the Spanish Government time to review the archaeological methods and administrative issues relating to the project and to discuss protocols for the exploration and protection of Spanish shipwrecks that Odyssey finds in the area or elsewhere throughout the world."

The Junta de Andalucia was also saying yesterday that the project needs its permission.

Last December Civil Guards boarded the vessel and obliged it to leave the area it was in on the basis that it did not hold the necessary permits.

While the crew aboard Odyssey's 251' deep-ocean archaeological platform Odyssey Explorer, is waiting to return to the site believed to be the Sussex, they have begun the archaeological excavation of another shipwreck site in the western Mediterra-nean recently located by the crew of RV Odyssey, the Company's 113' research vessel.

In a statement the company said that in September 2004 the Company received assurance from the Kingdom of Spain through the United States Department of State that the Spanish Government had "no desire or intention to prevent the salvage operation of the shipwreck believed to be HMS Sussex."

Odyssey subsequently mobilised the Odyssey Explorer for operations on the Sussex project and has recently completed some of the preliminary pre-disturbance work at the site, calibration of acoustic equipment and testing of several newly installed archaeological excavation tools for the Sussex project.

Odyssey says it has maintained a policy of cooperating with governments that have interests in its projects, whether by ownership, heritage or geographical proximity.

"The Sussex site lies in a very busy shipping lane which is monitored by Spain's Tarifa control centre for safety and traffic control purposes. One of the issues that recently surfaced has been another ship engaged in unauthorised shipwreck exploration activities in the area, as well as a different ship coincidentally called the RV Odyssey that has been engaged in unapproved activities in Spanish territorial waters. While neither of these ships have any association with Odyssey Marine Exploration, the unexpected confusion has prompted some unwarranted and inaccurate reports from the Spanish media, which Odyssey has sought to dispel through cooperation with the Spanish authorities," said the company.

"We'd obviously like to get to work as soon as possible on recovery operations on the Sussex", commented Greg Stemm, Odyssey's co-founder, after meetings in Madrid, "but Spain has indicated they have a real interest in learning more about the project, and want to see the archaeological methodologies we are employing.

There has been no question that the shipwreck of the Sussex is the exclusive property of the United Kingdom, but with so many of their own shipwrecks scattered throughout the oceans of the world, it is not surprising that Spain has a profound interest in our activities here and that we would have an interest in working out a protocol for dealing with Spanish shipwrecks in the future."

Odyssey has an exclusive partnering agreement with the Government of the United Kingdom for the archaeological excavation of the shipwreck believed to be HMS Sussex.

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