305.358.0000 | Se habla Español
spanish treasure chest

Commercial Salvor required to return to Spain 500 million in treasures

October 13, 2015

Federal Register Odyssey

Verified Claim of The Kingdom of Spain

This case originated by ODYSSEY MARINE EXPLORATION, INC., arresting THE UNIDENTIFIED, SHIPWRECKED VESSEL, its apparel, tackle, appurtenances and cargo in rem – much like any other “finds’ case or “salvage” claim. The Kingdom of Spain filed a Verified Claim, based upon the Public Notice to the State Department in 2001 – relating to the policies of Governments of France, Germany, Japan, Russian Federation, Span, and the United Kingdom. Based upon Spain’s 2001 position filed six years before the “find” by Odyssey. A copy of the Verified Claim of The Kingdom of Spain and the Federal Register Public Notice 4614 – is available by clicking the above links.

What has occurred is that the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has denied Odyssey Marine’s motion to stay an Order mandating Odyssey Marine to return coins and objects to Spain which had been removd from the “Black Swan” (the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes) a sunken 19th century Spanish galleon, discovered by Odyssey in 2007. The case commenced April 9, 2007, when Odyssey Marine filed a complaint in federal district court in Tampa, Florida under admiralty and maritime law (known as an admiralty in rem action). Odyssey argued that it should either own the shipwrecked vessel under the law of finds or is entitled to “a liberal salvage award” from the vessel under the law of salvage. Odyssey lost the case. in September, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s decision and ordered Odyssey “to release the recovered res [i.e. the shipwreck materials] to the custody of Spain.” Odyssey filed a motion to stay this decision – as it appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Odyssey argued in its December 2, 2011 motion to the Circuit Court that once it delivered materials to Spain – the objects would not be returned to Odyssey if it ultimately won the case before the U.S. Supreme Court as “Spain’s position that it is not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Courts …” Odyssey also cited seven points of error that remain to be challenged in the case. The appellate court “denied” the motion to stay Tuesday.

Robert L. Gardana headshot

Author :Rober L. Gardana

Robert L. Gardana, P.A. is author of the book Florida Maritime Law and Practice.

(305) 358-0000