Platinum cargo from a shipwreck has been found off the Massachusetts coast and the precious metal today is valued at nearly $3 billion, but who gets to keep it?
The state of Massachusetts could keep the platinum, or it could be Greg Brooks of Sub Sea Research in Gorham, Maine, who discovered the shipwreck some 50 miles off the coast, after using a remotely run submersible vessel last summer.
The coal-fired ship, which rests in 700 feet of water, was sunk by torpedoes in a June 1942 attack by a German U-boat, Brooks told Reuters.
Brooks said the vessel had been bound for New York from Nova Scotia with 1.707 million ounces of platinum, a precious metal intended as a special wartime payment to the United States from the then Soviet Union.
That much treasure, if verified, would have a value today of $2.77 billion, at a platinum market price of $1,624 per ounce.
“If all the cargo is brought up, it will be the richest shipwreck in the world,” the treasure hunter said.
The Port Nicholson, which Brooks said was owned by British shipping firm Port Line Ltd, was part of a convoy under military
escort when enemy ship U-87 fired multiple torpedoes, sinking both it and the troop ship Cherokee, and causing numerous fatalities.
Sub Sea Research says it verified the ship using an underwater camera, has seen “declassified documents verifying the cargo” and interviewed survivors and relatives of the crew.
Brooks said he also believes the ship may have been carrying around $165 million — at today’s prices — worth of other valuable metals, due to the port of origin and the tonnage.
Of the platinum at least, he said he is “99.9 percent sure” it was on board and the wreck site shows no signs of any past salvage work.
“As time went on, it was forgotten about, because it was a secret cargo,” he said.
Platinum is a precious metal used to produce catalytic converters in automobiles, and is used in other goods ranging from computers to dental work and cancer treatment.
In 2009, a federal judge gave the Sub Sea salvage rights to the ship, and Brooks said he hopes to begin recovery operations soon, once he acquires more key equipment.