The world’s most famous shipwreck, the RMS Titanic, will be more rigorously protected under an international agreement, the U.K.’s Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani confirmed ahead of a Tuesday visit to Belfast, where the ship was built.
The U.K. and the U.S. will now be responsible for granting permits to those wishing to visit the wreck and remove artifacts. The agreement, which was signed by the United Kingdom in 2003, was ratified by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last year. The agreement will further protect the wreck, which became a UNESCO cultural heritage site in 2012. The U.K. will take a leading role in protecting the wreck, encouraging other North Atlantic countries like France and Canada to sign the agreement.
“Lying two and a half miles below the ocean surface, the RMS Titanic is the subject of the most documented maritime tragedy in history,” Ghani said in a press release. “This momentous agreement with the United States to preserve the wreck means it will be treated with the sensitivity and respect owed to the final resting place of more than 1,500 lives.”
The RMS Titanic set sail on its maiden voyage to New York on April 10, 1912 from Southampton, England, with 2,207 passengers and crew on board. The state-of-the-art British passenger liner hosted some of the world’s wealthiest people, as well as poorer migrants looking to start a new life in North America. Five days after its departure, the ship hit an iceberg and sunk 3,800 meters to the bottom of the ocean, where it remained unfound for 30 years.
The ship’s disappearance became a source of fascination for oceanographer and former Navy captain Robert Ballard, who embarked on his first unsuccessful search for the wreck in 1977. Determined, Ballard struck a deal with the United States Navy that provided funding for his expedition in exchange for Ballard locating two lost Cold War Navy submarines. In collaboration with a French expedition, Ballard found debris that led him to the ship’s resting place, 350 nautical miles off the Canadian coast of Newfoundland on September 1, 1985.