Salvage Vessel Detained Over Antiquities Possession

File photo: silver bars recovered from Odyssey's Giarsoppa project (courtesy Odyssey Marine)

Published Dec 29, 2015 6:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Bahamas-flagged vessel Odyssey Explorer, owned by American firm Odyssey Marine Exploration, faces scrutiny from Cypriot authorities following the seizure of her cargo December 23.

Acting on a tip, police served a search warrant on the vessel and found nearly 60 crates in her hold containing nearly 600 objects, including many artifacts suspended in water for preservation. Authorities are trying to determine whether the vessel recovered the antiquities from Cypriot or Lebanese waters. She had been active at a shipwreck site to the east of Cyprus prior to arrival in Limassol.

“Whether in one EEZ or the other, the process of the temporary seizure of the ship and its contents will be the same. The Lebanese will come to air their views, we will hear from foreign experts as to where such cargo comes from and what its destination was,” Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides told local media. Cypriot authorities are consulting with Interpol and with Lebanese archaeologists to help determine the artifacts' origin.

If Cyprus' police find that the ship had been hunting for historic artifacts without a permit, the crew could face charges of illegal possession of antiquities.

The Explorer and the Odyssey vessel Alert were both arrested and searched by Spanish authorities on similar charges in 2007 as part of a dispute over Spanish gold from a sunken galleon. Odyssey Marine has recently been selected to complete the salvage of gold from the SS Central America, a controversial find off the eastern seaboard of the U.S.

Odyssey Marine recently reached a deal with Magellan Offshore Services, Monaco Financial, Seascape Artifact Exhibits and Freeport Ocean Minerals to retire $21 million in maturing debt in exchange for parts of Odyssey's assets. Magellan will get an 80 percent cut of Odyssey's future shipwreck developments and Freeport has acquired half the firm's stake in Neptune Minerals.