Spanish galleon San Jose to be salvaged

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has announced the salvage of the Spanish galleon San Jose, which sank more than three hundred years ago, inclusive of the billions of dollars’ worth of treasure believed to be in the wreck.

According to President Santos, a state-private alliance has been working on the details of the salvage in the previous months.

Launched in 1698, the San Jose was part of the fleet of King Philip V of Spain during the War of the Spanish Succession.

On 8 June 1708, the ship was attacked by British warships about 16 nautical miles off the port of Cartagena, sinking at 7:30 pm local time due to an explosion in the powder chamber. 587 sailors, soldiers and passengers were killed, while only eleven people survived.

The wreck was discovered in the port of Cartagena in December 2015, as we reported here. President Santos himself had tweeted the discovery to the world. Now, he has announced news of the ship’s salvage.

Colombia is in dispute with Spain, which announced its claim on the treasure immediately after the discovery of the San Jose, on the basis of a UN convention which states that sunken warships belong to the country of origin.

Unfortunately for Colombia, it has not signed the corresponding convention. If the salvage operation is a success, it would be interesting to see whether the estimated USS17 billion value of the ship’s cargo is indeed a reality.