Reykjavík police have been questioning the captain of the research ship Seabed Constructor, which was summoned to land by the Icelandic Coastguard.
Seabed Constructor came to Reykjavík yesterday, escorted by the Coastguard ship Þór. The ship had been researching the seabed some 120 nautical miles southeast of Iceland, in the area where the Minden shipwreck lies.
The Icelandic Coastguard suspects the ship of conducting research illegally within the Icelandic Exclusive Economic Zone, without the appropriate permit.
A lawyer for Advanced Marine Services, the company behind the voyage, told RÚV that the debate is about whether or not a permit is required for this sort of research.
“If this is ocean research then the Icelandic State has jurisdiction there and has certain rules concerning permit provision and suchlike. On the other hand, if this falls outside the remit of ocean research then it’s hard to see what the Icelandic case can base its jurisdiction on,” says Bjarni Már Magnússon, a law of the sea specialist from Reykjavík University.
Bjarni Már says that if a ship is searching for valuables, it is the owner of the wreck who has jurisdiction, and if he/she cannot be found then the Law of Find comes into play; basically, finders-keepers.
The Minden was en route from South America to Germany and was positioned between Iceland and the Faroe Islands on September 24, 1939, when two British cruisers came by. The authorities in Berlin had ordered the captain to sink their ship if such a situation occurred. To this day there is no official record of what the Minden was carrying—apart from South American tree resin. It is thought unlikely, however, that people would spend huge sums of money over 80 years later to try and salvage some resin…