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(Update) Odyssey Marine: Vessel Boarded, Forced to Spanish Port

In press releases dated July 12 and July 17, Odyssey Marine (OM) reported the seizure of its ship Ocean Alert by the Spanish Guardia Civil in international waters after the vessel left the port of Gibraltar – purportedly under the authority of the Cadiz “warrant” which no one with averse interests has yet been shown.

The boarding had been prearranged by legal representatives of Spain and OM, who believed a search would be conducted on the high seas with the vessel then being released. The inherently tense situation, somewhat assuaged by the presumed agreement, escalated when Guardia Civil personnel threatened the Ocean Alert’s captain with the use of force if the ship was not immediately re-routed to the Spanish port of Algeciras.

Arriving in Algeciras on the 12th, the vessel was searched over a period of several days. Though now reportedly cleared to leave, various administrative snafus (which one begins to believe are intentional harassment on the part of Spain) has kept the ship in port to at least today – an exceedingly long detention. The OM press releases are essentially confirmed by a gibfocus.gi report.

In the above-linked article, gibfocus notes that the British Government, as well as OM, released formal statements that the boarding took place in international waters, rather than Spanish territorial waters as claimed by Spain. The seizing of a flagged vessel in international waters appears to be irregular, especially considering the absence of the mysterious court order. Spain having shown no aversion to bullying, this is nothing new.

In an earlier article, gibfocus implied inside information on the secret location of the new “Black Swan” wreck, which has yielded 500,000 period coins to OM submersibles and is the subject of the controversy:

Gibfocus also understands that the location of the treasure is off the coastline of El Faro, Portugal and not as first suggested off the coastline of Lands End in the UK. Whilst the treasure is believed to be from a Spanish colonial era vessel, the location of the shipwreck is believed to be within international waters off the Portuguese coastline. Official sources have this evening suggested that the vessel is a Spanish colonial vessel. Odyssey Marine Exploration has, however, continued to keep the location and name of the vessel a secret. Experts have nevertheless suggested that the vessel could be la Mercedes, or Nuestra Senora de Las Mercedes which sank off the Portuguese coastline in the early 1600’s. Tracking positions of the Odyssey vessels indicating that the company did operate in the same area the vessel was believed to have sank.

OM’s press releases included a report of its filing an affidavit with multiple governmental authorities in an effort to provide more transparency regarding its operations: 

Odyssey recently provided a 109-page legal affidavit to authorities in the Spanish Federal government, the Junta de Andalucia, the United Kingdom, Gibraltar, and the United States detailing Odyssey’s activities leading up to, and after, the announcement of the “Black Swan” discovery. This document (which covered nine years of communications and meetings between Odyssey, the Junta of Andalucia and the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and Spain) was provided in order to address questions posed by the Spanish regarding Odyssey’s activities and to reassure all concerned governments and officials that Odyssey has always acted legally and with full transparency in relation to the “Black Swan” project and in all other shipwreck exploration activities.

Assuming the Ocean Alert is actually allowed to leave today and not held indefinitely, tensions should dissipate for the time being. I will comment on the latest developments as I become aware of them.


PS- Today we received our first legitimate comment to the USLegal Blog! John Amrhein, Jr., a treasure hunter, maritime historian and author of the forthcoming The Hidden Galleon (New Maritima Press, 2007) added a comment to the Odyssey Marine: Sea Hunt v. Spain post. Thanks, John.