British politician Gavin Robinson has denounced plans by a US company to slice open the hull of the Titanic and salvage its priceless Marconi wireless radio, thus sidestepping a new landmark treaty between the US and UK to protect the wreck, 13,000 feet below the sea, reported The Telegraph.
Robinson, a DUP MP for Belfast East, where the Titanic was built, likened the American firm RMS Titanic Inc’s intention to salvage artefacts from the Titanic and place them on display in Las Vegas to the actions of nefarious sea pirates, insisting their mission is no more than an attempt to “pilfer and pillage” the wreck.
“I think it's important that we get behind the government and make sure that there are robust efforts in place that would frustrate the efforts of those who want to simply profiteer. The idea that a vested connection would warrant pilfering and pillaging what is essentially a tomb to the sacrifice to those who were aboard Titanic, I think it's entirely misguided.”
The Titanic Row
During a visit to Belfast on Tuesday, British Department for Transport and Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani announced that a new treaty, signed by the UK and US, will ensure the historic Titanic is treated with the “sensitivity and respect” that the wreck and her passengers deserve.
The “momentous” treaty will give both countries the power to grant or deny licenses to companies to enter the remains and remove artefacts found outside the hull.
The agreement was signed back in 2003, but has only just come into force following ratification by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in November 2019.
RMS Titanic Inc lashed out at the ground-breaking agreement and said it plans to ignore as it cannot be enforced by US law.
The company - a subsidiary of the Atlanta-based Premier Exhibitions - owns the sole salvage rights to the Titanic, after being awarded them in 1994.
It has recovered more than 5,500 items from Titanic in eight expeditions in recent decades, ranging from fragments of the actual heavy metal structures of the vessel to personal items collected from the debris surrounding the wreck, some 600 kilometres off the coast of Newfoundland.
The firm now reportedly intends to remove a section of the deckhouse roof using underwater robots to facilitate its hunt for artefacts inside the ship. One of the most precious artefacts believed to be in the wreck is the wireless radio system by Guglielmo Marconi that the crew of the Titanic used to send out distress signals overnight on 14 April 1912.
RMS Titanic Inc insists it seeks to preserve the relics on the wreck before they are lost forever, as the vessel is slowly but surely disappearing thanks to rust-munching bacteria.
Back in 2010, Canadian researchers discovered that bacteria eating away at the ship’s iron may destroy it completely in 15 or 20 years.
RMS Titanic Inc says it has been in contact with the relatives of those who perished in that tragic incident and has received blessings for the salvage mission.
Vanessa Beecham, 59, and the great-niece of Edward Biggs who died on the Titanic's maiden voyage was quoted by the publication as saying:
“If the wireless can be retrieved in a sensitive way, then they have my blessing.”
Court documents from RMS Titanic Inc outlining the salvage mission were sent to the United States District Court in Eastern Virginia this week.
“Without the recovery and conservation of these artifacts, the ability experience additional items would be limited to less than 150 people, an elite group who have the privilege and means to travel to the wreck site. The Company places the highest value of ensuring that any recovery is completed in a respectful and judicious manner taking into account the sensitivities of such actions,” it is said in the papers.
Deadly Maritime Disaster
The RMS Titanic was an Olympic-class passenger liner owned by British shipping company White Star Line and built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Shortly before midnight on 14 April 1912, four days into its maiden voyage, the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank two hours and forty minutes later, early on 15 April 1912.
The sinking resulted in the deaths of 1,517 of the 2,223 people on board, making it one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.
The wreck has long been deteriorating due to corrosion and deep ocean currents and, it has been suggested, in no small measure due to various expeditions.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the hull and structure of the ship is likely to collapse within the next 40 years.