OceanGate Expeditions reportedly received a warning from a trade group in 2018 that its Titan submersible, which has been missing since its dive to view the Titanic wreckage, did not meet industry standards and posed a range of potential negative outcomes, including catastrophic ones. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the Marine Technology Society’s manned underwater vehicles committee sent a letter to OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush expressing unanimous concern about the planned expedition involving the Titan submersible.
According to the letter obtained by the Times, the committee, comprising industry professionals with over 60 years of experience, raised doubts about OceanGate’s use of off-the-shelf features and a single-button operation system for the submersible. The committee also noted that OceanGate did not appear to intend to adhere to the DNV-GL class rules, widely recognized as crucial guidelines for vessel safety, despite the company’s marketing claims that the Titan met or exceeded those standards.
The committee recommended that OceanGate submit a prototype of the Titan submersible for review by DNV-GL, emphasizing the importance of compliance with industry regulations. Although such a review would involve additional time and expense, the committee believed it was necessary to mitigate risks.
The submersible was categorized as “experimental,” and participants in the expedition were required to sign a waiver acknowledging the potential risks of death and serious injury. The committee expressed concern about this classification, as it could have significant consequences for the entire industry.
It remains unclear whether OceanGate responded to the committee’s letter or followed the recommendations for further review of the submersible.
In a blog post from 2019, OceanGate defended its efforts to mitigate risks but argued that certification from organizations like DNV-GL would not guarantee safety, as innovation often falls outside the existing industry paradigm.
OceanGate has declined to comment on the committee’s letter, and Forbes has reached out to the manned underwater vehicles committee for additional comments.
The committee’s letter to OceanGate strongly criticized the company’s representation of its submersible, stating that it was misleading to the public and violated a professional code of conduct shared by the industry.
OceanGate Expeditions, established in 2009, aimed to make deep-sea exploration accessible to tourists. Since 2017, the company has been working on taking tourists to see the Titanic shipwreck, located over two miles below the ocean’s surface and about 400 miles from the nearest coastline in Newfoundland, Canada.
The Titan submersible went missing early Sunday morning, prompting an extensive search-and-rescue mission covering an area larger than the state of Connecticut. The vessel was carrying five individuals, including a British businessman who had flown on one of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin flights, a Pakistani businessman and his 19-year-old son, a French Titanic expert, and OceanGate CEO Rush. With a 96-hour life support capacity, the passengers have less than 40 hours of air remaining, according to officials’ estimates on Tuesday.