Touring submersibles singled out after Titan’s implosion

After the news of the implosion of the small tourist submarine which went to explore the wreck of the Titanic, located nearly 4,000 meters at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, criticisms multiply about the reliability and safety of these machines.

The Titan’s implosion, the first fatal accident aboard a deep-sea tourist submersible, could prompt calls for tougher safety rules, but industry experts say further measures would be difficult to implement. given the international nature of this activity.

The manufacturer of the Titan had chosen not to have the machine certified, contrary to industry practices, which, according to experts, suggests that this type of accident is not likely to happen again.

They also point out that prior to the deaths of the five passengers aboard the submersible, no fatalities had been recorded in more than 60 years of civilian deep water voyages.

Industry executives are bracing for increased scrutiny, while saying it’s hard to predict what changes may be coming. To date, there are no regulations or government controls on the high seas.

Read alsoBehind the Titan submarine, OceanGate, a company already criticized

Director James Cameron, who became a deep-sea explorer in the 1990s during his research for the film “Titanic” and co-owner of the exploration company Triton Submarines, has spoken out in favor of compulsory certification of ships.

OceanGate did not respond to questions about its refusal to be certified by third parties, such as the American Bureau of Shipping or the European company DNV.

As early as 2018, Will Kohnen, chairman of the Marine Technology Society (MTS) manned submersible committee, which brings together companies and researchers, warned Stockton Rush, the CEO of OceanGate who died in the implosion, that this decision could have consequences. “catastrophic” consequences.

Rear Admiral John Mauger, U.S. Coast Guard, told a press conference on Thursday June 22 that “Issues relating to applicable regulations and standards will, I’m sure, be the focus of future review. “.

James Cameron denounced the “ignored warnings” concerning safety, saying he was “struck by the similarity with the disaster” of the famous ship, on the American channel ABC News.

“I was involved in the early phases of the development program” at OceanGate and “we were extremely committed to security”, retorted on Times Radio Guillermo Söhnlein, co-founder of the company with the American Stockton Rush, who died in the accident. implosion of the submersible.

“Risk mitigation was a key part of the company culture,” he said.

Guillermo Söhnlein, who left the company in 2013, recalled that James Cameron himself visited the wreck many times to produce his 1997 planetary hit.

The company OceanGate implicated

On the BBC, Will Kohnen claimed that his group had raised concerns about the “Titan” developed by OceanGate. But according to him, the company was “unwilling” to undergo a certification process.

For Guillermo Söhnlein, it is still too early to know what really happened, but he felt that underwater exploration should continue to develop.

“As with space exploration, the best way to preserve the legacy of these five explorers is to investigate, find out what went wrong, learn from it, and move forward. “, he said.

The Titan, about 6.5 meters long, had plunged on Sunday and was due to resurface seven hours later but contact was lost less than two hours after its departure. The machine had a theoretical autonomy of 96 hours of oxygen.

On Wednesday, however, there was still hope.

Read alsoFrom the ocean to space, the quest of the ultra-rich for extreme experiences

Canadian P-3 planes had detected noises under water, but their origin had a priori no link with the submersible.

Over the course of research this week, information implicating OceanGate has come to light on possible technical negligence of the underwater tourism device.

A civil complaint in the United States in 2018 shows that a former company executive, David Lochridge, was fired after raising serious doubts about the safety of the submersible.

According to this former director of marine operations, a large porthole at the front of the aircraft was designed to withstand the pressure experienced at 1 300 m deep and not at 4 000 Mr.

For 250 000 dollars instead, the passengers had engaged in an exploration of the remains of what was one of the greatest maritime disasters of the XXe century, with nearly 1 500 dead.

Since the discovery of the wreck of the Titanic in 1985, scientists, treasure seekers and wealthy tourists have visited it, thus maintaining the myth.

With Reuters and AFP

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