Odyssey Marine Exploration (NasdaqCM: OMEX), the world's leader in the field of deep-ocean shipwreck exploration announced today that its Motion for a Protective Order which will govern discovery and evidence exchanged with Spain in the case of the three pending Admiralty Arrests was granted. U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Pizzo of the U.S. District Court's Tampa Division, which has jurisdiction over the cases, agreed to enter the Protective Order as presented by Odyssey with some clarifications requested by Spain. He had previously indicated that Spain would have to agree to a Protective Order before site information was released to them.
At a pretrial conference on Thursday, the Court underscored the importance of protecting the site and avoiding any release of confidential information. In the spirit of cooperation in protecting the site, Odyssey volunteered to provide to Spain the precise locations of the sites rather than a general area, as originally requested by Spain.
Within 14 days of the issuance of the Protective Order, in addition to the locations, Odyssey will provide Spain information about all three sites including photomosaics of the sites and information about artifacts recovered to date. Odyssey also agreed to provide Spain's experts access to the artifacts recovered from the sites.
The Company had offered this information to Spain since the beginning of the legal process, but insisted that a Confidentiality Agreement or a Protective Order was in place that would serve to protect information which might endanger the site if leaked or disclosed.
"We are glad to finally get to the stage in this process where we can furnish information to Spain. As reflected in our pleadings, we have always intended to do so, but we needed to have the Protective Order in place to assure confidentiality. We are pleased that the Court saw the importance of such an order," said Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey's General Counsel. "This should lay to rest much of the false and misleading information put out in the Spanish media which some Spanish authorities have apparently been relying upon."
Magistrate Pizzo indicated at the hearing that further operations at the sites by Odyssey were authorized and that any interference by Spain may result in sanctions under the Order. The Court also emphasized that in the event of a breach of confidentiality or violation of the Protective Order, the Court could grant whatever remedy it may deem appropriate, including dismissal of Spain's claim.
Spain had filed claims for all three pending Admiralty cases following Odyssey's May 2007 announcement of the archaeological recovery of over 500,000 silver and gold coins from a Colonial era site code-named "Black Swan" outside the territorial waters or jurisdiction of any sovereign nation.