The Titanic International Society (TIS), a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of the Titanic, said on Friday that “it is time to consider seriously whether human trips to Titanic’s wreck should end in the name of safety”.
Following the tragic loss of the five passengers onboard OceanGate’s Titan submersible in a “catastrophic implosion” 500m from Titanic’s wreck last week, an announcement signed by the President of the TIS, Charles Haas, states that there is anyway relatively little remaining to be learned from or about the wreck.
In the meantime, Canada’s Transportation Safety Board announced an investigation regarding the circumstances of Titan’s operation by its surface support vessel, the Canadian-flagged Polar Prince.
“In the coming days, we will co-ordinate our activities with other agencies involved,” the authority wrote in a press release on Friday.
Titanic trips and the danger of hubris
As it raises the issue of whether manned missions to the Titanic should end, the TIS suggests that crewed submersibles’ roles in surveying the wreck be assigned to autonomous underwater vehicles instead.
Such vehicles mapped the ship and its debris field in high-resolution, 3-D detail last summer.
“Just as Titanic taught the world safety lessons, so, too, should Titan’s loss,” the TIS statement reads.
“Titanic also taught the world about the dangers of hubris and overreliance on technology. This expedition’s tragic ending has shown that these lessons remain to be learned,” it adds, while extending the Society’s sympathy and love to the families of the five additional victims that Titanic claimed 111 years after her loss.
Call for an official investigation
An extensive, detailed investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Transportation Safety Board and/or their Canadian counterparts is clearly warranted , the TIS believes.
The investigation should “deeply inquire into the submersible’s design, structure, communication and safety systems, owners’ policies and emergency preparations and procedures, and the proximity, state of readiness and deployment of deep-sea rescue systems to the site,” it adds.
Hence, the non-profit organisation urges its members, “and those who feel similarly,” to contact their members of Congress, Parliament or other legislative body, to ensure that such inquiry is initiated.
The TIS also suggests that intensive pre-service inspection of deep-sea submersibles should be required by international regulation.
In reality, however, the implementation of new measures would prove far more challenging than thought, industry experts warn.
As they tell Reuters, any additional safety regulations for deep-sea tourist submersibles may be impossible to enforce given the international nature of this specific business activity.