Joined: 10 Oct 2004
Location: New York
|Posted: Sun Oct 10, 2004 9:40 pm Post subject: $1 Billion Plus!! What about competitors?
|First, we have a salvage claim against the vessel filed in the US District Court, District of Massachusetts. Salvage Law, and the Law Of Finds, is often complex. To learn more about the protections afforded to us, you can visit our Useful Links section, http://rms-republic.com/links.html#salvage_law , as well as our Legal Section, http://rms-republic.com/legal/
Suffice it to say that the legal protections afforded to us are formidable.
However, I could tell you stories regarding interest in this wreck by persons of dubious character, from a fellow I met years ago from Bari, Italy, to current individuals who have relatives in jail for racketeering, conspiracy, and murder. No doubt, organized crime had waterfront interests in New York at the time the Republic was loaded, so they'd have some knowledge of her cargo.
But, fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), there are, in addition to the legal difficulties, certain high technical thresholds to overcome in order to recover and retain the cargo - that also protect us from competitors.
Recovery - You'd need a pretty big boat, associated support/supply vessels, cranes and barges, and be able to put in several months in 3-5 successive years - at a minimum cost of $2+ million per season. The location of the wreck is right in the middle of the outbound Ambrose to Nantucket shipping traffic lane, the busiest on the east coast of the US, so it's an operation that could not be conducted clandestinely. By its nature and location, any attempted salvage would be obvious and high profile. For safety alone, we've had to establish a formal and published "Temporary Precaution Area" to warn maritime traffic, with the Coast Guard. Also, the wreck is only about six miles away from the Andrea Doria - which is frequented by technical sport divers, who would no doubt notice activity at the Republic site. Finally, with all the terrorist activity and threats, our coast security has been hightened. Even during our 1987 salvage, we had Coast Guard vessels visit us, and their jets did an over-fly; I'm sure the site is also on someone's satellite watch list.
As for the time required, comparable salvages would be Laurentic (1919), gold bars in 132 feet of water taking 7-9 years, and SS Egypt (1930s) (mostly bars, with some coin, taking 5 years) in over 400 feet. Although the salvages were conducted decades ago, the man-handling effort would be comparable - cranes and men excavating debris. But, both of these early salvages had the convenience of being in near-protected waters relatively inshore. Republic is in the open ocean.
To give you an impression of the degree of difficulty, consider the Oklahoma City Federal Morrow Building bombing, reducing a ten story building to a pile of rubble. It took scores of men, heavy machinery, jack-hammers, bull-dozers cranes, etc. four (4) months to excavate that site - and that's on dry land! Now, take an equivalent amount of debris, put it in one of the most dangerous stretches of unprotected North Atlantic ocean under 270 FSW, with always uncertain weather, have 2 men out a diving bell, one crane - and you'll have an inkling of the complexity. So, the gold would most likely be retrieved over time, not in one big score. Theft of a portion might be possible, but we'll naturally have security in place for that.
And, if the gold is indeed on-board and is retrieved, anyone would have to deal with the claims of the US Government - who say that they own the gold based on MY "good-faith" research. No doubt, the Russians, at that point, would also file a claim. With 60+ people working on-site, and with media coverage, it's a secret that couldn't be kept. So, in a sense, we have a super-power and a former super-power (and the media) also watching over our interests. As for our interests, salvors often receive 75% of the recovery for their efforts. In the most recent recovery of the gold aboard SS Central America, where the insurers had filed claims against the recovery, the salvors were awarded 92% of the recovery.
In the final analysis, the risks for any interloper would be too great. And wrecksite-piracy, given the wreck's location and equipment required, would have a poor chance of success. Given the potential return, it would simply be easier to buy into a legitimate (by necessity of default) opportunity (particularly if the cargo is KNOWN by someone to be aboard).