Canada has become the first to officially announce that it has launched an investigation into the OceanGate mission to dive on the Titanic wreck this week that resulted in the loss of five individuals when the company’s submersible Titan suffered a catastrophic loss of pressure.
The submersible imploded coming to rest in two debris fields located approximately 1,600 feet from the bow of the Titanic at a depth of nearly 12,500 feet below the surface of the North Atlantic. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada reported today that it has launched an official investigation into the “fatal occurrence.” According to the announcement, a team of TSB investigators is traveling to St. John’s, Newfoundland, to gather information, conduct interviews, and assess the occurrence.
The U.S. Coast Guard during the briefing yesterday reporting the discovery of the debris said the plan was for non-essential vessels to demobilize late last night and AIS signals show that several of the vessels involved in the mission are due to reach St. John’s later today, June 23. The vessels with the ROVs were expected to remain at the site mapping the debris.
The announcement says, “In accordance with the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act and international agreements, the TSB, as the investigation authority of the flag state of the support vessel involved in the occurrence, will conduct a safety investigation regarding the circumstances of this operation conducted by the Canadian-flagged vessel Polar Prince.”
The U.S. Coast Guard had reported that there would be multinational discussions on the next steps and the plans for the investigation while highlighting that it remains focused on the efforts at the site.
Canada’s TSB is now reporting that in the coming days, it will coordinate its activities with other agencies involved. It is unknown if the U.S. or others would also launch an investigation or if there might be a joint effort with the Canadians.
Canada is taking the lead based on St. John’s having been the staging point for the expedition, which was on the Polar Prince, a Canadian-flagged vessel operated by Horizon Maritime under charter to OceanGate. The Titanic wreck site, 325 nautical miles south-southeast of Cape Race, Newfoundland, and Labrador, also officially lies within a zone administered by Canada.
A TSB investigation follows a standard protocol that begins with investigators examining the occurrence, interviewing witnesses, and collecting pertinent information. That will be followed by an examination which they report determines the sequence of events and identifies potential safety deficiencies. A report is prepared and reviewed before release, but the TSB also says that when safety deficiencies are suspected or confirmed, they advise the appropriate authority without waiting until the publication of the final report.
The launch of the first investigation comes as questions regarding the design and construction of the submersible continue. There is also a wide array of calls for increased oversight and regulations for the operation of private submersibles. Experts are citing the unconventional design of the submersible, including its cylindrical shape, and the construction out of a combination of titanium and carbon fiber material. Able to hold five people including the pilot, the Titan was also larger than any previous commercial submersible able to dive to a depth of 4,000 meters.
OceanGate issued a brief statement confirming the loss of the five individuals, including the CEO of their company, saying “This is an extremely sad time for the entire exploration community.” They asked that the privacy of the families be respected during this difficult period.
Source: The Maritime Executive