Odyssey Marine hauls in $35 mln of silver from British wreck

July 22 Mon Jul 22, 2013 11:38am EDT

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July 22 (Reuters) - Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc, a salvage specialist famous for recovering $500 million in bullion from a shipwreck off Portugal, said it had recovered more than 61 tons of silver from a British merchant ship torpedoed during World War II.

At current prices, the haul is worth about $35 million. That is $3 million less than what the company fetched for a haul of 48 tons from the same ship last year as silver prices have tumbled in the last few months.

The recovery, from the SS Gairsoppa, a 412-foot steel-hulled cargo ship sunk in 1941 by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland, consists of 1,574 silver ingots weighing about 1,100 ounces each.

The company said it had not found any uninsured government-owned silver that it had hoped was aboard the Gairsoppa, which is lying three miles below the surface.

Odyssey called the latest find "the deepest and largest precious metal recovery from a shipwreck."

The company has now recovered more than 99 percent of the insured silver reported to be aboard the ship.

Odyssey said it had moved the silver to a secure facility in Britain. The company can retain 80 percent of the salvaged value of the cargo, under its contract with the UK Department of Transport.

The Tampa, Florida-based company specializes in recovering bullion from shipwrecks, but that has led to disputes over ownership.

It ran into trouble with a similar salvage operation six years ago after the Spanish government claimed ownership of the Black Swan wreck off Portugal, on which it found a reported $500 million in gold and silver in 2007.

The dispute moved to the U.S. courts in 2012 where a judge ruled in favor of the Spanish government, forcing the company to hand over the treasure.

The company, which is also engaged in seafloor mineral exploration, has not posted an annual profit since 2004.

Odyssey Marine shares fell as much as 6 percent to $3.26 in early trading on the Nasdaq before easing a little to trade down 4 percent. (Reporting by Swetha Gopinath in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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