Following on from the news from the Treasury Solicitor that the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon MP, has written to Lord Lingfield, Chair of the Maritime Heritage Foundation stating that permission to recover “at risk surface items” from HMS Victory 1744 has been withdrawn, thePipeLine will be using this post to follow the story and comment on developments as they happen.
Here is the original quote from the Treasury Solicitor which was released into the public domain this morning.
“The Secretary of State [for Defence] has written to Lord Lingfield withdrawing the approval he gave earlier to proceed with the current phase of the HMS Victory project design. He will now retake this decision.”
Mr Robert Yorke, Chair of the UK Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee, who working in a private capacity has sought to begin a Judicial Review into the HMS Victory decision, commented.
“The Judicial Review will now be dropped. I have no further details at this stage but it would appear that there will be no work on HMS Victory in the short term until a new decision has been taken.”
12.08: Kevan Jones MP comments “This has been a scandalous episode which has tarnished Britain’s name internationally. We not only need to know how it happened, we need to put in place a process which ensures these sites are properly protected in future.”
Mr Jones initiated the Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons on January which resulted in a series of investigations into aspects of the HMS Victory process and the UK Government’s relationship with Odyssey Marine Exploration, being initiated across Whitehall.
You can see Mr Jones’ speech and the Government reply by Mr Ed Vaizey MP here…
14.57: Comment from Odyssey Marine Exploration
“Odyssey Marine Exploration received notice that the UK Secretary of State for Defence has withdrawn the approval he gave for the HMS Victory 1744 project while the UK Government addresses the issues raised in an application for Judicial Review of that decision. This does not immediately affect Odyssey’s plans for HMS Victory 1744 this year as the Maritime Heritage Foundation has indicated that they believe the issues will be dealt with promptly and permission will be reinstated. While Odyssey is concerned that any further delay could result in additional damage to site, we respect the UK political and legal process. Odyssey remains confident that once the issue is dealt with, the Maritime Heritage Foundation once again will be given approval to proceed with this important project. Odyssey’s commitment to the Maritime Heritage Foundation remains unchanged.”
16.15: We have asked the Treasury Solicitor, the DCMS and the Ministry of Defence for comment and we have also approached Dr Sean Kingsley of Wreck Watch International, the consultant Odyssey Marine Exploration shares with the Maritime Heritage Foundation. However, no response yet.
17.45: Still no response from any of the key players in the HMS Victory story except Odyssey. However, over at the hugely entertaining Yahoo message board for OMEX shareholders [and critics] one poster has responded with a mixture of bravado and nervousness which could be an indication of one route this story might take. “bassetti 12” writes
“Maybe OMEX can now bill them for all their work, finding it and all their work on the site. Might be the only way they can recover costs. Hope I am wrong and they get approval, but not looking good. Also make sure to bill them for the cost of moving the explorer to England. I think the explorer will be returning to the SSCA site in April- Hope they have enough funds for this operation.”
Friday 6 March
11.20: Short article by Dominic Kennedy in The Times http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article4373737.ece [Paywall]
11.22: thePipeLine has just received the weekly latest digest of news from Heritage Minister Ed Vaizey talking about his work in Parliament and out on the stump. Strangely no mention of the SOS for Defence pulling the permission for the HMS Victory 1744 Project
20.00 [GMT]: Odyssey Marine Exploration Issues e-mail alert in an attempt to reassure shareholders.
Sent: Friday, 6 March 2015, 21:05
Subject: HMS Victory 1744 Update
HMS Victory 1744 Update
You may have seen reports or blog posts that the UK Secretary of State for Defence has withdrawn the approval he gave for recovery of artifacts from the Victory site while the UK Government addresses issues raised in a threatened Judicial Review of the October 24 approval.
This does not immediately affect Odyssey’s plans for Victory as the Maritime Heritage Foundation has indicated that they believe the issues will be dealt with promptly and permission will be reinstated.
We remain confident that once the issue is dealt with, the Maritime Heritage Foundation and Odyssey once again be given approval to proceed with this important project.
As always, if you have questions please feel free to contact us through our website: http://ir.odysseymarine.com/
Blog posts? Who could they mean?
Friday 13 March
Odyssey makes an after hours announcement that they have reached an arrangement to cede control to Mexican mining Conglomerate MINERA DEL NORTE, S.A. DE C.V. [MINOSA] in return for a distressed loan which substantially dilutes any upside for existing shareholders.
The 8-K filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission also announces what has been an open [but unannounced] secret for days. The company has received a delisting notice from the NASDAQ because the stock has traded at below $1.00 for more than thirty days.
Finally the OMEX announces that its directors and officers will be indemnified against legal action by stockholders or former stockholders. In other words, if a stock holder or former stockholder believes an OMEX officer or director has been negligent and attempts to sue it is the stockholders who pay for the directors legal bills.
Monday 16 March
Odyssey releases its fourth Quarter 10K Report and Mark Gordon, Odyssey’s president and chief executive officer says “For the third consecutive year, Odyssey successfully located and recovered ‘tens of millions of dollars’ worth of shipwreck cargo and expanded its seabed minerals business,” adding “…unfortunately we did not make any money.” Actually that last bit we made up, although the 10K did reveal a loss of $5.2 million.
OMEX also appears to be facing equipment problems. In the conference call following the release of the 10K Mark Gordon says
“…the Odyssey Explorer has been in the shipyard having her required annual surveys and preparing the ship for this season’s work. Generator and other repair issues have kept the Explorer on port longer than expected but she should be ready to sail if the weather cooperates within the next few weeks.”
Mr Gordon also leaves open the question as to whether OMEX is moving away from the shipwreck treasure hunting model which made the company [in]famous saying
“We are not abandoning our shipwreck roots. However, we will be more selective in the projects we undertake to lower the risk profile on these projects. We look forward to fulfilling the commitments made to the Maritime Heritage Foundation and the U.K. government in regards to the Victory project. Additional shipwreck projects will be subjected to a level of scrutiny, which will require that they compare favorably to mineral exploration projects in terms of risk and reward.”
Investors are apparently not convinced by the MINOSA deal and the OMEX share prices closes at $0.56, just one cent above its fifty two week low.
Tuesday 21 April
After spending several months tied up alongside her management company in Hull the Odyssey Explorer departed on 18 April with her destination given as the port of Cork in Ireland. However, the ship is currently south west of Cork on a heading of 280 degrees and steaming at just over ten knots. This heading takes her across the Atlantic leading to suggestions that the ship may be being repositioned in advance of the proposed deal with Mexican mining conglomerate MINOSA. This would also place the ship and her contents under US jurisdiction.
Last night the OMEX share price closed at $0.70.