A PORTUGUESE company has expressed interest in pursuing the recovery of a 600-year-old Chinese shipwreck discovered off the coast of Koh Kong province in 2006. Staff at Arqueonautas Arqueologia Subaquatica Worldwide, a marine archeology group, said that the company had contacted officials at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to discuss the recovery of the wreck.
"We are simply waiting for an answer regarding their decision on how to proceed," said Katie Whiddon, a project assistant at Arqueonautas Worldwide. Since its founding, the company has discovered more than 150 wreck sites in Africa and Asia. Fourteen historical shipwrecks have been excavated, and approximately 100,000 coins and more than 10,000 artefacts recovered.
The wrecked Chinese trading ship, which is believed to have sunk in the 14th or 15th century, was found in February 2006, about 20 kilometres off the coast of Koh Sdech island after a local fishing fleet reported that looters were plundering the site with makeshift diving equipment. Two Russian dive teams yielded some 900 pieces of pottery that were treated with salt and kept at a casino owned by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat in Koh Kong.
Khim Sarith, secretary of state at Ministry of Culture and the chairman of the government commission overlooking the recovery of the shipwreck, said the government was seeking international assistance in the recovery of the sunken ship, but had so far received no interest.
"We will wait to cooperate with this company if they are interested," he said Friday, adding that an exploration request may have not made it to senior commission members yet.
According to Whiddon, Arqueonautas Worldwide currently holds exclusive survey and recovery licenses in Mozambique and Indonesia, and is pursuing additional agreements in Asia and the Americas. The company's mission is to recover and protect world maritime heritage and advance learning through scientifically conducted marine archaeological projects.