A US marine salvage company that discovered a sunken World War I ship years ago wants to be named owner of the vessel — and the nearly 19 tons of silver bars worth millions of dollars that went down with the ship.
Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. contends in a new Manhattan lawsuit it used “sophisticated sonar equipment” in 2011 to locate the SS Mantola — a 450-foot British-flagged steamer torpedoed by a German submarine in 1917 as it sailed from London to Calcutta.
Odyssey used a “surface-controlled remotely operated vehicle to survey the shipwreck site and recover artifacts,” the suit says.
The company estimates 536,000 ounces of silver could be on board the ship. Under a 2011 salvage agreement with the UK government, Odyssey was to keep 80 percent of the cargo.
However, that agreement lapsed in September 2015 and the government no longer makes such deals, the suit says. Odyssey is staking its claim for ownership.
The salvage company has recovered the ship’s bell, which is currently housed in Norwich, UK.
Odyssey also intends to turn over to US Marshals a silk cloth recovered from the doomed vessel, arguing it’s the “only party that is currently engaged in extensive exploration, recovery and survey operations” on the Mantola.
The wreck was found at a depth of around 8,000 feet, near the coast of Ireland. The ship’s cargo was insured for 110,000 British pounds -— a figure that has been used to deduce that the cargo contained nearly 19 tons of silver bars, reports say.
The Mantola, according to the Odyssey website, set sail from London on Feb. 4, 1917, carrying passengers and cargo. Four days later, she was struck by a torpedo. The 165 crew members and 18 passengers abandoned ship. All but seven crew members, who drowned when their lifeboat overturned, were rescued by the HMS Laburnum.
An unsuccessful attempt was made to tow the Mantola before she sank on Feb. 9, 1917 – less than a year after she was launched.
The Manhattan federal court lawsuit names “The Shipwrecked and Abandoned SS Mantola” as the defendant.
Odyssey lawyers declined comment.
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Source: New York Post