Agreement to Control Access to RMS Titanic
A new treaty to stop the desecration of the wreck of TMS Titantic could also set a precedent to safeguard other wrecks in international waters.
The UK and the US this week agreed to protect the Titanic wreck, which sits more than two miles deep in the North Atlantic, from treasure hunters and ghoulish tourists.
The agreement, the first of its kind, gives both countries the power to grant or deny licences for small submarines to enter the hull of the Titanic or to remove any artefacts.
After Robert Ballard using a remote-controlled sub found the wreck 350 nautical miles off Newfoundland in 1985, salvage rights have been claimed by various companies which have since been criticised for 'pillaging' the site and 'grave robbery'.
It is thought more than 6,500 artefacts ranging from a sapphire ring to sections of the hull have been removed from the wreck which has been seriously damaged by submersibles landing on its structure. A hedge-fund consortium bought a large cache of Titanic relics for $19.5 million.
Tours were also conducted to the site with one couple even getting married in a submersible perched on the wreck. It has been reported that similar tours were due to restart next year with tickets costing as much as $100,000 each.
The wreck is the resting place of more than 1,500 people who were on board when the ship was sunk by an iceberg on her inaugural voyage in 1912.
A survey of the wreck last year established that despite sitting in 1ºC waters the wreck is deteriorating rapidly and that it has been drastically damaged by looters – for example, the captain's quarters and bathtub have been stripped from the wreck.
Clare Fitzsimmons, of Newcastle University and part of the survey team, said the new treaty 'presumes that preservation in-situ is now preferred over removal.'
David Scott-Beddard, of the British Titanic Society, said that the wreck must now be treated with the respect that those 1,500 lost deserve. It is hoped that similar agreement can now be struck to safeguard other wrecks in international waters.