September 25, 2012 – Odyssey Marine Exploration advised due to current weather conditions in the North Atlantic and the previous commitment of the Seabed Worker to another charter, operations on the SS Gairsoppa and SS Mantola shipwrecks have been deferred until weather in the area is appropriate for operations in the second quarter of 2013. The ship is offloading approximately 17,000 additional ounces of silver and other artifacts in Falmouth before it continues on to Norway to conclude the charter. This additional silver bullion, originally thought to indicate another area of the ship containing silver cargo, was the only additional silver found in the areas inspected since offloading the first cargo of silver.
Work on the project aboard Seabed Worker began on June 4, 2012. During the 83 operational days (days not affected by weather delays, transit or time in port) of this period, the Odyssey team surgically opened and cleared approximately 70% of the holds and compartments of the SS Gairsoppa which were suitable for transporting silver cargo. These areas were opened and inspected using the ROV controlled hydraulic shears, deck removal tool and small grab system operated from nearly three miles above the shipwreck site. During these operations, a total of 1,218 silver ingots, which are expected to yield approximately $44 million at current silver prices, were recovered from the SS Gairsoppa as well as several hundred artifacts which have been declared to the UK Receiver of Wreck. Based on experience and data gained this season, and armed with improved tools and technology, it is expected that the rest of these areas can be searched and cleared within 30-45 operational days upon Odyssey’s return to the site.
Operations on the Mantola were also conducted to test ship and equipment capabilities during the early part of the expedition, and recovery operations on that shipwreck are planned to continue immediately after completion of the Gairsoppa.
The monetization of the silver recovered from the Gairsoppa to date is underway and expected to be completed before the end of this year. At current silver prices and after accounting for contractual obligations to the UK government and Galt Resources, the recovery to date will result in an increase of approximately $26 million to Odyssey’s net income in 2012.
Odyssey anticipates that an additional 1,599 insured silver ingots, representing approximately 1.8 million ounces, and what could be a substantial amount of uninsured silver remains on the Gairsoppa site. Documentation of the insured silver lists four separate lots with individual numbers for each ingot. The inscribed number on every silver ingot recovered to date matches this documentation. Silver from only three of the four lots has been recovered and none of the lots have so far been fully accounted for. The fact that a substantial amount of the insured and manifested cargo remains to be recovered leaves open the possibility that the uninsured cargo, which according to sources including “Lloyd’s War Losses” could total an additional three million ounces or more, may be located with the remainder of the insured silver on the shipwreck. In addition, there is a reported 600,000 ounces of insured silver believed to remain on the SS Mantola.
“We’re pleased with the operational results to date on this project even though the combination of weather and the end of any additional charter extensions prevented us from completing work on the final areas of the site for now. We recovered about $44 million in silver bullion in a record-breaking operation. Our team has proven their ability to efficiently execute complex operations at a depth of 4,700 meters (15,600 feet) to complete both the deepest cargo salvage and largest recovery of precious metals ever accomplished. We’ve proven that we can make precise cuts, gain access to interior areas of a steel shipwreck, and recover cargo from a shipwreck deeper than the Titanic,” said Mark Gordon, Odyssey President and COO. “There is only a limited area of the Gairsoppa that remains to be inspected and cleared, and we’re confident that operations can be completed quickly in 2013. We will execute the completion of both the Gairsoppa and Mantola projects as part of our new commodity shipwreck program which includes at least four other shipwrecks under salvage agreement which were reportedly carrying more than $230 million of commodity value.”
About SS Gairsoppa and SS Mantola
Odyssey is conducting the Gairsoppa and Mantola projects under contract with the UK Department for Transport. Under the terms of the agreements, which follow standard commercial practices, Odyssey bears the risk of search and recovery and retains 80% of the net salved value of the silver cargoes after recovering its expenses. These contracts have been extended through January 2014 and September 2014 respectively.
The Gairsoppa was a merchant ship torpedoed by a German U-boat during World War II. During the War, the UK Government insured privately owned cargo under their War Risk Insurance program. After making an insurance payment of approximately £325,000 (1941 value) to the owners of the silver cargo lost aboard the Gairsoppa, the UK Government became the owners of the insured cargo. As some sources, including ”Lloyd’s War Losses” indicate a total silver cargo worth £600,000 (1941 value) lost aboard the Gairsoppa, there may have been additional government-owned silver cargo aboard that would have been self-insured.
The SS Mantola was a 450 foot British-flagged steamer was struck by a torpedo from a German submarine in February 1917. The 165 crew members and 18 passengers abandoned the ship. All but seven crew members, who drowned when their lifeboat overturned, were rescued by the HMS Laburnum. In 1917, the British Ministry of War Transport paid a War Risk Insurance Claim for £110,000 (in 1917 value) for silver that was on board the Mantola when she sank. This sum would equate to more than 600,000 ounces of silver based on silver prices in 1917.
Source: Odyssey Marine Exploration