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Treasure Hunters, North Carolina Enter Mediation over Pirate Ship

Saturday, May, 23, 2015

Normally, when old sunken ships are discovered within the boundaries of a State such as North Carolina in the United States, the salvage company (often referred to as ‘treasure hunters’) and the State split the proceeds. In the case of 18th-century pirate Blackbeard’s famous pirate ship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, however, most of the valuables were known to have been removed prior to the ship’s sinking. As a result the treasure hunting company involved, Intersal, Inc., signed a contract with the State of North Carolina in 1998 for exclusive media rights concerning the sunken pirate ship. A revised contract was signed between the two in 2013 to resolve ongoing disputes.


However, Intersal alleges that North Carolina has repeatedly and consistently violated the 2013 agreement by releasing videos, photographs, and other media with its permission, and filed a $14 million breach of contract lawsuit over the conflict. The North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) referred the case to mediation in April 2015.


According to current laws, sunken ships within a state’s waters are property of the state even if they are undiscovered, so the ownership of the Queen Anne’s Revenge is not disputed. North Carolina naturally sees the ship as a tourist attraction and part of the state’s history, and the Department of Cultural Resources is eager to incorporate media about the shipwreck and the materials recovered from it in their promotions. Intersal claims it must give North Carolina permission to use any media associated with the wreck, and that the state has failed to do so on numerous occasions.


If the mediation fails, the case will go back to the OAH where an administrative judge will resolve the suit