Government Halts Legal Action Against Planned Titanic Exhibition Dive.


In Norfolk, Virginia, the U.S. government has recently ended its legal strife against an impending expedition to the Titanic’s resting place. This resolution comes on the heels of the Titanic’s salvage rights holder, RMS Titanic Inc., amending its impending dive plans.

The dispute manifested itself last year when the Georgia-based company unveiled its dive expedition, now slated for mid-July. Initial plans included photographic documentation of the ocean liner’s sundered hull and salvaging artifacts from the rubble. There were also suggestions of retrieving objects from within the Titanic, specifically the room from which the sinking ship broadcasted mission-critical distress signals.

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In response, the U.S. government filed a legal challenge in August, articulating that the federal law regulated entry into the Titanic and any potential alteration or disturbance of the wreckage. And with Great Britain, it recognizes the site as a memorial to the over 1,500 lives lost during the Titanic’s tragic collision with an iceberg in 1912.

The government’s qualms extend to the possible disturbance of the artifacts and human remains that might still be at the North Atlantic seabed.

However, in October, RMS Titanic Inc. pronounced a significant curtailment to the original dive plans. The reduction arose from a crushing blow to the expedition’s plan as its Director of Underwater Research, Paul-Henri Nargeolet perished in the Titan submersible’s implosion near the Titanic wreck in June.

RMS Titanic Inc. confirmed in a court filing in February that it planned to deploy an uncrewed submersible, carrying out solely external photography of the vessel’s exterior. “The company will not come into contact with the wreck,” they reassured.

Nevertheless, the governement insists that future expeditions might bring violations of the law, considering that RMS Titanic Inc.’s long-term goals entail possible search and retrieval inside the wreckage and the surrounding debris field. This potential retains the possibility of upcoming legal confrontations concerning the downed ocean liner.

RMS Titanic Inc., officially recognized as the steward of the Titanic’s artifacts since 1994, has not been on an expedition since 2010 — before the introduction of the federal law and international agreement.

The company has salvaged and conserved a plethora of the Titanic’s annals, from silverware to parts of the Titanic hull. These exhibis have beheld millions of spectators.

U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith, who manages Titanic’s salvage cases in Norfolk, Virginia, stated that the U.S. government’s lawsuit against RMS Titanic Inc. would invite serious legal matters if continued. The impact of such a lawsuit could reach far and wide.

Judge Smith stated that Congress has the right to alter maritime laws, referring to the legislation governing entry into the sunken Titanic. However, she questioned Congress’s ability to eradicate courts of admiralty jurisdiction over shipwreck, a doctrine with centuries of legal backing.

In 2020, Smith permitted RMS Titanic Inc. to recover and display the radio that transmitted the Titanic’s distress calls. This decision invited an official challenge from the U.S. government. However, the legal saga never unfolded due to the indefinite postponement of those plans in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.