Court Rules in Titanic Salvage Case

Tuesday, August 1st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The company with salvage rights to the Titanic has been blocked from cutting into the sunken ship by a federal judge, who said a recent management change raises concerns about what will happen to the artifacts.

U.S. District Judge J. Calvitt Clarke Jr., acting without a request, issued the order Friday, two days after the company, R.M.S. Titanic, said it was looking for $300 million in lost diamonds. He also repeated his ban on selling objects taken from the wreck.

Last November, R.M.S. Titanic stockholders fired the company's old managers and picked new ones who pledged to speed up the salvage operation.

The new president, Arnie Geller, told Clarke in March about a plan to cut into the Titanic this summer. The company later scrapped the plan, saying the technology wasn't ready.

But last Wednesday, R.M.S. Titanic said it would sell some artifacts ``of non-historical and archaeological significance,'' including diamonds, gold and currency, from the wreck site.

Mark Davis, an attorney for the company, said the judge's order mainly clarified and reiterated previous rulings. He said Clarke was aware that the company is selling chunks of Titanic coal and used some coins found on the ship as collateral for loans.

The court has ruled that Titanic artifacts can only be sold as a single collection for public display. R.M.S. Titanic has raised money for salvage operations with traveling exhibitions of Titanic artifacts.

R.M.S. Titanic was awarded sole salvor status by Clarke in 1992 but has been salvaging the wreck since 1987. It has conducted five expeditions, recovering 5,000 items from the wreck site in the North Atlantic, about 400 miles off Newfoundland.