Experts raised safety concerns about OceanGate years before its Titanic sub vanished (2023)

OceanGate uses its Titan vessel to take tourists deep below sea level to visit the Titanic shipwreck. It disappeared in the North Atlantic during one such trip on Sunday. AP hide caption

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Experts raised safety concerns about OceanGate years before its Titanic sub vanished (2)

OceanGate uses its Titan vessel to take tourists deep below sea level to visit the Titanic shipwreck. It disappeared in the North Atlantic during one such trip on Sunday.


Experts from within and outside OceanGate raised concerns about the safety of its Titan submersible as far back as 2018, years before it went missing during a deep-sea dive to the Titanic shipwreck site.

Several of those complaints have resurfaced this week, as the frantic search for the vessel — and its five passengers — continues.


Missing Titanic sub search enters a critical phase as the Titan's oxygen supply drops

"It hasn't surprised us," said Will Kohnen, the chair of the Marine Technology Society's Submarine Committee (formerly the Manned Underwater Vehicles Committee), about the Titan's disappearance. "We've been aware of this project for some time and have had some concerns."

In March 2018, after one of the international industry group's annual conferences, Kohnen drafted a letter to OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush — the pilot of the missing vessel — expressing "unanimous concern" on behalf of its members about the development of the Titan and its planned Titanic expeditions.

"Our apprehension is that the current experimental approach adopted by Oceangate could result in negative outcomes (from minor to catastrophic) that would have serious consequences for everyone in the industry," he wrote, according to a copy obtained by the New York Times.


OceanGate wants to change deep-sea tourism, but its missing sub highlights the risks

NPR has reached out to OceanGate for comment.

Kohnen told Morning Edition's A Martínez on Wednesday that the group's main concern was a lack of oversight and adherence to industry-accepted safety guidelines.

"Most of the companies in this industry that are building submersibles and deep submersibles follow a fairly well-established framework of certification and verification and oversight, through classification societies," he said. "And that was at the root of OceanGate's project, is that they were going to go solo, going without that type of official oversight, and that brought a lot of concerns."


Deep sea rescues have a mixed track record. The Pisces III is one that succeeded

Kohnen doesn't see Titan's disappearance as a reason to take a step back from deep sea explorations as a whole.

"We have submarines all over the world diving 12,000 to 20,000 feet every day of the year for research," he said. "We know very well how to build and how to design these machines and how to operate them safely."

The same is true for tourism purposes, he adds: "It just gets expensive."

OceanGate's push to innovate worried industry experts

Third-party agencies around the world, like the American Bureau of Shipping and DNV in Europe, are responsible for overseeing structures like ships, oil platforms and submarines to ensure that they're designed to specification, Kohnen explained.

That process involves publishing rules and sending out engineers to review designs and inspectors to witness testing.

Most major marine operators require chartered vessels to be "classed" by one of these independent groups, OceanGate acknowledged in a 2019 blog post. However, it said that process only assesses physical vessels, not a company's operating procedures and decision-making processes, which are more often to blame for accidents.


A former passenger details what it's like inside the missing Titan submersible

The company affirmed its commitment to operational safety and risk mitigation, touting its "constant, committed effort and a focused corporate culture." But it also painted the third-party approval process as "anathema to rapid innovation," its founding principle.

"By definition, innovation is outside of an already accepted system," the blog post reads. "However, this does not mean that OceanGate does meet standards where they apply, but it does mean that innovation often falls outside of the existing industry paradigm."

Kohnen said that while his letter was never officially submitted to OceanGate, he did have a conversation with Rush in which the two "agreed to disagree." He points out that the complaint that regulatory bodies are slow to react to new innovations isn't unique to submarines.

"All industries face the same issue," Kohnen added. "And it is a careful dance of how do you push regulations forward in the face of rapid-changing technology."

The OceanGate logo is pictured on a boat at the Port of Everett Boat Yard in Everett, Wash., on Tuesday. Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

Experts raised safety concerns about OceanGate years before its Titanic sub vanished (8)

The OceanGate logo is pictured on a boat at the Port of Everett Boat Yard in Everett, Wash., on Tuesday.

Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

A former employee says he was fired after raising concerns

OceanGate's own former director of marine operations also flagged potential safety issues with the Titan around the same time — and says he was fired after doing so, as NPR station WBUR reported.

David Lochridge, himself an experienced submarine pilot, alleged in a 2018 lawsuit that he was fired after raising concerns that the company wasn't properly testing the vessel's carbon fiber hull. He had also pushed for the company to utilize a classification agency to inspect and certify it.

Lochridge said he first raised his safety and quality control concerns verbally to executive management, which ignored them. He then sought to address the problems and offer solutions in a report.


'Tiny sub, big ocean': Why the Titanic submersible search is so challenging

The day after it was submitted, the lawsuit says, various engineering and HR executives invited him to a meeting at which he learned that the viewport of the submersible was only built to a certified pressure of 1,300 meters, even though the Titanic shipwreck lies nearly 4,000 meters below sea level.

Lochridge reiterated his concerns, but the lawsuit alleges that rather than take corrective action, OceanGate "did the exact opposite."

"OceanGate gave Lochridge approximately 10 minutes to immediately clear out his desk and exit the premises," it said.

OceanGate said in legal filings that it had relied on acoustic tests "better suited" to detect safety issues, and accused Lochridge of breaching his contract, according to WBUR.

"The company said Lochridge was not an engineer and refused to accept assurances from the lead engineer that testing was sufficient," WBUR's Walter Wuthmann told Morning Edition.

They settled out of court in 2018.

Previous expeditions haven't all gone smoothly

The Titan made its first dive to the Titanic wreck site in 2021 and returned the following year — though those trips haven't been without issue.


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OceanGate acknowledged in legal filings that the vessel had encountered a battery issue and some external damage during its maiden voyage.

CBS Sunday Morning correspondent David Pogue said the submersible lost contact with the surface crew for about five hours during his expedition in 2022 and told NPR that a mechanical issue forced the vessel to abort a November trip after making it 37 feet down.

He said he's since learned that such dives "rarely go to plan."

"With each of these expeditions that OceanGate makes, they spend five days over the [Titanic] shipwreck," Pogue said. "And typically of those five days, they managed to get down only once or twice. And this season it's been zero."


How many times has the sub gone to the Titanic? ›

“The team on the sub has a couple of legendary explorers, some of which have done over 30 dives to the RMS Titanic since the 1980s including PH Nargeolet,” Harding wrote, according to CNN news partner CTV News.

Who was in the Titanic submarine? ›

The five men on board included OceanGate CEO and founder Stockton Rush, French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet, British businessman Hamish Harding, Pakistani billionaire Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood.

Who was on OceanGate sub? ›

The passengers on the 21-foot sub were British businessman Hamish Harding; Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his teenage son, Suleman; French explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet; and Stockton Rush, CEO of OceanGate, the company that operates the vessel.

What is Ocean Gate? ›

OceanGate Inc. is an American privately owned company based in Everett, Washington, that provides crewed submersibles for tourism, industry, research, and exploration. The company was founded in 2009 by Stockton Rush and Guillermo Söhnlein. OceanGate Inc.

How many more years until the Titanic is gone? ›

Because the Titanic isn't timeless. In fact, scientists think the entire shipwreck could vanish by 2030 due to bacteria that's eating away at the metal. The following photographs reveal the Titanic's deteriorating conditions.

How long until Titanic disappears? ›

It is unclear how long the Titanic will remain intact at the bottom of the ocean. By one estimate, UNESCO has said it is expected to disappear by 2050. Research expeditions to the site have been ongoing since its discovery, while tourism opportunities are a more fledging -- and luxury -- opportunity.

What ship picked up the Titanic bodies? ›

Titanic - Halifax Connection

Three ships were dispatched from Halifax, Mackay-Bennett, Minia and Montmagny (along with Algerine from Saint John's, Newfoundland) found almost all of the Titanic victims. Other passing steamships in the North Atlantic found a handful of other bodies, which were immediately buried at sea.

Who was found guilty of the Titanic sinking? ›

The Infamous Captain Edward Smith. doomed passenger ship the Titanic, which went down in April 1912. Captain Smith was responsible for over 2,200 passengers and crew, more than 1,200 were killed that fateful night of April 14. Titanic was built to the highest standards of the day and was deemed unsinkable.

Who found the Titanic sink? ›

Numerous expeditions unsuccessfully tried using sonar to map the sea bed in the hope of finding the wreckage. In 1985, the wreck was finally located by a joint French–American expedition led by Jean-Louis Michel of IFREMER and Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

What happened to the missing submarine? ›

The missing vessel (called, of all things, the Titan) was not actually a submarine but a submersible, which means it couldn't power itself into and out of the ocean. Instead, it was deployed and retrieved by a mother ship, which needed some kind of contact with the submersible in order to recover it.

Who owns ocean water? ›

To summarize, while the body of water of the sea cannot be owned by anyone, the seabed is owned by the coastal State within the limits of the "territorial sea" and not beyond.

Who funded Ocean Gate? ›

OCEANGATE has 2 investors including B Dash Ventures and Branding Engineer . When was the last funding round for OCEANGATE ?

Who owns what parts of the ocean? ›

No one owns the ocean. The seas and oceans are considered to be a 'global commons', which means that they belong to everyone and no one at the same time. However, countries do have the right to claim 'exclusive economic zones' (EEZs) up to 200 nautical miles from their coastlines.

Why can't the Titanic be raised? ›

The Titanic sank in 1912, and ever since people have wanted to salvage it. There are many reasons why the ship cannot be raised. Over 1,500 people died when it sank; it's considered a gravesite. The ship is also deteriorating.

Why don t they bring the Titanic up? ›

Bring it up? Experts also say that a sub-to-sub rescue is unlikely from the bottom of the sea. Only a handful of submersible craft exist that could reach the depths of the Titanic wreck. Even if they could reach it, submersibles do not have the power to tow the missing vessel up to the surface.

Could the Titanic happen again? ›

Those changes, along with the advent of superior technologies for navigation and communication, have made the seas much safer since 1912. As such, it is unlikely that the specific circumstances leading to the sinking of the Titanic will recur.

Are there any Titanic survivors still alive? ›

There are no survivors of the Titanic alive today

The very longest-living person to have survived the Titanic died on the 31st of May 2009. Her name was Elizabeth Gladys 'Millvina' Dean, and she was just two months old when she boarded the Titanic with her family.

Can the Titanic be pulled out? ›

There are several laws that prohibit the removal of the Titanic wreckage that sits 12,500 feet deep in the North Atlantic Ocean. For more than 110 years now, the wreckage of the Titanic ship continues to rest deep in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Is the Titanic iceberg still around? ›

The average lifespan of an iceberg in the North Atlantic typically is two to three years from calving to melting. This means the iceberg that sank the Titanic "likely broke off from Greenland in 1910 or 1911, and was gone forever by the end of 1912 or sometime in 1913."

Where did all Titanic bodies go? ›

Where are the Titanic victims buried? Around two-thirds of the bodies recovered after the sinking were transported to Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada for burial, whilst a third were buried at sea. 306 – the number of bodies that were recovered by the CS Mackay-Bennett (bodies 1 to 306).

Was the captain of the Titanic found? ›

While we cannot know for sure how he spent his final moments, it is known that Captain Edward Smith perished in the North Atlantic along with 1517 others on April 15, 1912. His body was never recovered.

Did anyone survive the Titanic that was not in a lifeboat? ›

It was her sister, Edna Kearney Murray who survived the sinking of the Titanic but it wasn't in an overloaded lifeboat. “My great aunt Edna was in England at the time and had purchased a ticket for return passage to America on the Titanic,” Chris said.

Who were the two killers on the Titanic? ›

Stoker William Mintram inhabited a suitably Dantean inferno after the crime of killing his wife. He slaved in punishing heat to propel the souls aboard a White Star liner to a far-flung shore. AB George Francis McGough, on the other hand, sauntered the decks, almost rubbing shoulders with the passengers.

Was the captain of the Titanic drunk? ›

The liner Titanic leaves Southampton, England on her maiden voyage to New York City in 1912. THE captain of the Titanic was drunk when the liner hit an iceberg and sank, a newly unearthed document alleges. Captain Edward Smith apparently was seen drinking in the saloon bar of the ship before the collision.

What did they find in the Titanic safe? ›

A purser's safe brought up from the wreck last summer contained an assortment of gold-colored British coins, whose value was estimated by an expert at about $5,000.

How long did it take Titanic to hit the ocean floor? ›

Falling nearly vertical at about 4 mph, the stern crashed into the ocean floor 27 minutes later. The two pieces of the Titanic lie 2,000 feet apart, pointing in opposite directions beneath 12,500 feet of water.

Who didn't go down with the Titanic? ›

Fleeing the ship in a lifeboat, Ismay himself survived this most mythologized of all maritime disasters, even as thousands of women and children perished on that fateful night in 1912.

What is the biggest submarine missing? ›

Russian submarine Kursk (K-141)
Stricken12 August 2000
FateAll 118 hands lost in 100 m (330 ft) of water in Barents Sea on 12 August 2000
StatusRaised from the seafloor (except bow), towed to shipyard, and dismantled
18 more rows

What was the biggest submarine tragedy? ›

The nuclear-powered Project 949A Antey (Oscar II class) submarine K-141 Kursk sank in an accident on 12 August 2000 in the Barents Sea. It was taking part in the first major Russian naval exercise for more than 10 years. All 118 personnel on board were killed.

Who owns the ocean floor? ›

The oceans have no apparent surface features -- just a flat, vast, briny expanse. They're also all connected; the world's five oceans are technically one single ocean that covers 71 percent of the planet [source: NOAA]. This makes it difficult to divide, and so ultimately, you own the oceans.

Which country owns water? ›

Oceans are International Zones

Although the oceans are technically viewed as international zones, meaning no one country has jurisdiction over it all, there are regulations in place to help keep the peace and to essentially divide responsibility for the world's oceans to various entities or countries around the world.

Who bought water to Earth? ›

Multiple geochemical studies have concluded that asteroids are most likely the primary source of Earth's water. Carbonaceous chondrites–which are a subclass of the oldest meteorites in the Solar System–have isotopic levels most similar to ocean water.

Who funds the Great ocean Clean Up? ›

We are financing the project with the help of individuals, foundations and corporations. If you would like to support The Ocean Cleanup by making a donation, we would be very grateful. You can do so by donating here.

What is the largest ocean charity? ›

Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation. Oceana's mission is to protect and restore our oceans.

Who runs The Ocean Cleanup Project? ›

Boyan Slat (27 July 1994) is a Dutch inventor and entrepreneur, passionate about creating megaprojects to address planetary problems. He is the founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup; a non-profit organization developing and scaling technologies to rid the world's oceans of plastic.

How much is the entire ocean worth? ›

The value of key ocean assets is conservatively estimated in the report to be at least US$24 trillion. If compared to the world's top 10 economies, the ocean would rank seventh with an annual value of goods and services of US$2.5 trillion.

How far out does a country own the ocean? ›

Each coastal State may claim an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) beyond and adjacent to its territorial sea that extends seaward up to 200 nm from its baselines (or out to a maritime boundary with another coastal State).

What oceans does the US own? ›

The Atlantic Ocean is on the East Coast of the United States. Puerto Rico is in the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the U.S. territories. The Pacific Ocean is on the West Coast of the United States.

How many submarines have been lost at sea? ›

Nine nuclear submarines have sunk, either by accident or scuttling.

Was the Titanic hit by a submarine? ›

The wreck of the Titanic was struck by a submarine hired by a British adventure company, but the US government kept the incident a secret, according to a report.

How many times did the Titanic sail? ›

Follow the history of the Titanic, from its beginnings in a shipyard to its end at the bottom of the sea, in this timeline of the building of the ship through its maiden (and only) voyage. In the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, all but 705 of its 2,229 passengers and crew lost their lives in the icy Atlantic.

Can submarines reach the Titanic? ›

Another warning about the 'Titan' was: "They were told that it is not inspected by experts because it is an experimental form. There are only three submarines capable of reaching the Titanic and the 'Titan' is not among them," he said.

When was the last submarine to sink? ›

SUMMARY: Over the weekend of August 12–13, 2000, while on a naval exercise inside the Arctic Circle, the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk sank to the bottom of the Barents Sea with all hands on board. The entire 118-strong crew perished on the Oscar II class submarine, built in 1994.

How many submarines are in the ocean right now? ›

The Submarine Force is Comprised of More Than 70 Submarines.

In today's Naval Submarine Force, there are 53 fast attack submarines, 14 ballistic missile submarines – which currently carry more than 54% of the U.S.' nuclear deterrent arsenal – and four guided-missile submarines.

What was the largest submarine disaster? ›

The nuclear-powered Project 949A Antey (Oscar II class) submarine K-141 Kursk sank in an accident on 12 August 2000 in the Barents Sea. It was taking part in the first major Russian naval exercise for more than 10 years. All 118 personnel on board were killed.

What ship ignored the Titanic? ›

SS Californian was a British Leyland Line steamship. She is thought to have been the only ship to see the Titanic, or at least her rockets, during the sinking, but despite being the closest ship in the area, the crew took no action to assist.

Did Titanic survivors hear the ship hit the floor? ›

No, the Titanic survivors could not hear the Titanic hitting the bottom of the ocean. The sound would have been muffled by hundreds of feet of water and ice cold temperatures.

How many dogs survived the Titanic? ›

Three small dogs, two Pomeranians and a Pekingese, survived the Titanic disaster cradled in their owners' arms as they climbed into lifeboats.

Is Titanic 2 being built? ›

Titanic II is set to be the largest passenger ship built in China, where construction of cargo ships is more common. The new ocean liner, which will reportedly cost about $500 million, will accommodate 2,400 passengers and 900 crew members, same as the original.

How long would the Titanic take to cross the Atlantic? ›

In 1912, the only way to cross the Atlantic Ocean was by ship. The trip took almost six days to complete. More people were traveling at this time and each new ocean liner was the fastest, the biggest, or the best ship to ever be built.

How much does it cost to see the Titanic? ›

The once-in-a-lifetime experience cost $250,000 per person, according to the company's website. A file photo shows the RMS Titanic shipwreck from a viewport of an OceanGate submersible.

Why can't divers go to the Titanic? ›

Once reaching 130 feet, divers typically anre able to spend ten minutes at that depth without any decompression stops. While you are able to go further than the 130 without the decompression stops, it wouldn't allow for much time with the limited air you have.


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