UK Government awards exclusive salvage contract to Odyssey Marine Exploration for recovery of SS Gairsoppa silver cargo
Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc., a pioneer in the field of deep-ocean shipwreck exploration, has been awarded the exclusive salvage contract for the cargo of the SS Gairsoppa by the United Kingdom (UK) Government Department for Transport. The contract was awarded after a competitive bid process and is for two (2) years, which commences immediately.
The SS Gairsoppa was a British cargo steamer enlisted in the service of the United Kingdom for the Ministry of War Transport during World War II. It was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in February 1941 in the North Atlantic while reportedly carrying a significant cargo of silver.
Odyssey will assume the risk, expense, and responsibility for the search, cargo recovery, documentation, and marketing of the cargo. If the salvage is successful, Odyssey will be compensated with a salvage award which consists of a majority of the net value of the recovered cargo after deduction of expenses of search and salvage.
"We're looking forward to working with the UK Government to recover the silver carried aboard the SS Gairsoppa and return it to the stream of commerce. The shipwreck is lying in the deep ocean well within the range of current search and recovery capabilities. We have good location information which suggests a search area that can be completed in approximately 90 days, and we are scheduling this project for summer 2010," commented Greg Stemm, Odyssey's CEO.
"We're pleased to expand our excellent working relationship with the UK Government with this contract, which will provide a significant economic benefit to the UK upon a successful salvage of his shipwreck," Stemm continued. "This project aligns with our strategy to focus on partnership projects with several governments that provide straightforward legal ownership arrangements."
About SS Gairsoppa
The SS Gairsoppa was a British cargo steamship that began her career in 1919 under the service of the British India Steam Navigation Company. She engaged in commercial shipping activity in the waters off the Far East, Australia and East Africa. By January 1941, the SS Gairsoppa was enlisted in the service of the UK Ministry of War Transport.
She started her final voyage from Calcutta, India in December 1940 loaded with nearly 7,000 tons of diverse medium and high-value cargo, including pig iron, tea, general cargo, and a large quantity of silver. Departing without a military escort, the Gairsoppa and convoy SL-64 sailed the dangerous waters of the Atlantic, intending to rendezvous with convoy HG-63, which was escorted by two warships. As the convoy reached the northern latitudes, the Gairsoppa, loaded down with a heavy cargo, was forced to further reduce speed due to high winds and ocean swells. As the weather worsened on February 14, 1941, the Gairsoppa, running low on coal and with insufficient fuel to keep up with the convoy, was forced to sail independently and to head for Galway in western Ireland.
On February 17, 1941, German Boat Commander Ernst Mengersen submerged his 66.5 meter-long U-boat 101, and torpedoed the Gairsoppa causing her to sink. Of the 32 crew members who boarded lifeboats after the attack, all perished except for one survivor who, 13 days later, reached shore at the Lizard lighthouse, United Kingdom.