U.S. Coast Guard, Canadian Safety Board Launch Investigations Into Titan Implosion

June 26, 2023 7:27 PM
Titan submersible. OceanGate Image

Canada and the United States have launched investigations into the Titan submersible implosion.

The U.S. Coast Guard announced Sunday that it opened a Maritime Board of Investigation into the implosion. Meanwhile, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada opened an investigation Friday into the Titan, as well as MV Polar Prince, the former Canadian Coast Guard ice breaker that served as the launching ship for the submersible.

Investigators with both the Canadian and U.S. teams traveled to St. Johns as part of the probes. The Canadian Transportation Safety Board’s investigation will focus on Polar Prince, according to a news release from the agency.

The Maritime Board of Investigation will produce a statement of findings and recommendations that will go to U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Linda Fagan, said Capt. Jason Neubauer, a chief investigator with the Coast Guard.

“An MBI is the highest level of investigation the Coast Guard conducts and enables the U.S. to fully leverage investigative resources Coast Guard wide and capitalize on an extensive network of cooperative relationships with international maritime administration’s and organizations,” Neubauer said at the Sunday press conference.

During the investigation, the Coast Guard will look into the cause of Titan’s implosion, as well as the cause of the death of the five people aboard, according to a subsequent Coast Guard news release. The investigation will also look into any potential misconduct or negligence that contributed to Titan’s end.

As part of the investigation’s report, the team will also include whether there is evidence for civil penalties or criminal charges under U.S. laws.

The investigation is currently in the evidence collection phase, Neubauer said. Ongoing salvage efforts are happening at the two debris sites near the wreck of RMS Titanic. The service is also collecting evidence from the port at St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada. The Coast Guard will then hold a public hearing that will allow it to gather witness testimony.

The Coast Guard will work with the Canadian safety board as part of the investigation, as well as the French Marine Casualties Investigation Board and the United Kingdom Marine Accident Investigation Branch, he said.

There is a chance to learn from Titan’s situation, Neubauer said. After the report is completed, the Coast Guard will work with other maritime organizations and countries to establish new regulations or policies for enhanced safety, if there are any applicable.

The Coast Guard is the U.S. representative to the International Maritime Organization, Sal Mercogliano, an associate professor at Campbell University, told USNI News.

The IMO does not have any legal jurisdiction, but it sets safety standards, such as the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, a treaty signed after the Titanic sinking, Mercogliano said. The IMO also helps set mechanisms to allow countries to enforce policies, like having enough lifeboats on ships.

It’s possible that after Titan’s fatal ending, the maritime organization also sets safety standards for submersibles in a similar way to the policies put into effect after the Titanic’s sinking.

One of the remaining questions about the Titan submersible is whether the Coast Guard inspected it prior to the latest launch, Mercogliano said. The Coast Guard has not mentioned whether it inspected Titan in any service news releases since it led the search for the submersible.

Each country has rules and regulations for its territorial seas. For instance, the United States has regulations for submersibles that are launched from U.S. ships in U.S. waters, Mercogliano said.

There are also regulations over the site of the RMS Titanic that prevent people from destroying the site. There are rules around salvage, as well as regulations that prevent any harm from coming to the site, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency.

In the case of the Coast Guard, there are likely exceptions to those rules about the site for emergency rescue operations, a legal expert told USNI News.

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
Follow @hmongilio

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