Oceangate, the operator of the doomed submarine Titan, has been repeatedly criticized for its approach to safety before the “catastrophic explosion” that killed five of its passengers as the Titanic descended deep into the wreckage.
The submarine lost contact with the support vessel on Sunday, an hour and 45 minutes after disembarking on a two-hour trip to the Titanic wreck site in the North Atlantic.
Later, teams from the United States, Canada, France, and Britain spent several days scouring thousands of square miles of open ocean by plane and ship, searching for any sign of Titan.
On Thursday, rescue teams found the wreckage of the submarine and the company that operates it announced that five passengers had died in the accident, including company director Stockton Rush.
The other four are billionaire and British explorer Himish Harding, 58, Pakistani-origin businessman Shehzade Dawood, 48, and his son Sulaiman, 19, both British citizens, and French explorer and oceanographer Paul-Henri Narcolet, 77.
According to the site “Business InsiderOceangate made five major mistakes before embarking on the “dangerous” mission, ignoring safety concerns related to the ship’s design and operation.
The site says the submarine’s hull is made of carbon fiber, a misstep for a vehicle designed for deep submersion, where a hull made of stronger materials like steel or titanium would be preferable.
The advantage of using carbon fibers is that they are very light and cheap, but they cannot withstand the enormous pressure of water.
The site points out that several questions were raised about the safety provided by the Titan during a symposium for submarine industry experts in 2018, as well as in a lawsuit filed by former chief of marine operations David Lockridge in “Oceangate,” which was settled later that year.
In a statement released in December 2018, they said, “Titan has completed a 4,000 meter dive, fully proving the success of its innovative design and carbon fiber hull construction.”
Titan’s manufacturer has repeatedly ignored concerns about the submarine’s early warning system.
Oceangate has ensured that it has developed an advanced acoustic monitoring system designed to provide timely warning of structural failure and take appropriate action to avoid it.
But in his 2018 analysis, David Lockridge, the company’s former head of marine operations, warned that the warning system is virtually ineffective because it operates milliseconds before a catastrophic explosion occurs.
In its lawsuit against Lockridge, Oceangate refused to follow its recommendations for hull testing to ensure it was a robust and safe product for the safety of passengers and crew.
The website says the manufacturer has repeatedly declined invitations to obtain license certificates for the submarine.
Although the company has argued that such tests will not be required in 2019, it is highly likely that the submarine will not pass any rigorous safety tests as per industry standards, he adds.
The site cites journalist David Buck, who boarded the Titan in 2022, as signing a disclaimer saying, “This experimental submarine is not endorsed or approved by any regulatory body.”
In Lockridge’s case, the submarine’s forward porthole was designed to withstand pressure at a depth of 1,300 meters, much less than the depth at which the Titanic rested (4,000 meters).
According to the website, the company deliberately fired or ignored the warnings of any employee who raised concerns about the safety of the submarine.
A day after submitting the submarine’s safety report, Lockridge was called to a meeting with the company’s director of human resources, where he was told he was fired, the site added.
Not only was Lockridge fired from the company for raising safety issues, but former company analyst and consultant Rob McCallum, who publicly opposed the company’s efforts to streamline and speed up production processes, was treated the same way.
McCallum told the website that he was familiar with the equipment used on the Titan submarine and did not believe it was safe to use.
According to court documents, this is not the first time the company has dealt with problems with its submarines.
A flight on Titan in 2021 was halted shortly after due to battery problems that forced operators to manually attach it to its lifting platform, the site says.
Buck, a journalist who participated in the 2022 Titan experiment, reported that he lost contact with the submarine for several hours while he was on the support vessel.
“They could only send text messages, but they didn’t know where it was,” Pugh said, adding, “The situation was so tense that they cut off the internet from the support ship to prevent us from tweeting.”
Buck revealed that the submarine does not have an emergency locator transmitter, which would send out signals that would allow rescuers to locate it.
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