A statement was issued yesterday by OceanGate, after debris from the Titan was located by a remote diving vehicle;
“We now believe that our CEO Stockton Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, Hamish Harding, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, have sadly been lost. These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans.
“Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew. This is an extremely sad time for our dedicated employees who are exhausted and grieving deeply over this loss.”
US Coast Guard reports debris field found near the wreck of the Titanic, reported in the last hour by various news media. It hasn’t been confirmed that this IS the Titan submersible yet.
The search and possible rescue mission is underway for Titan, the submersible craft that carried five wealthy adventure tourists to the wreck of the RMS Titanic, in the Atlantic Ocean.
The vessel lost contact Sunday with its surface ship and several ex-Royal Navy and US Navy submarine captains and commanders have expressed the thought that Titan may have suffered a catastrophic loss of electrical power, a hull failure at depth, or become stuck on part of the wreckage itself.
The incident highlights the growing demand for extreme adventure trips. Be they an attempt on Everest, a flight into Space (technically the upper straosphere) voyages deep below the ocean surface, or cruise trips to Antarctica, they all carry a significant risk to life. How can insurers match the premium to the true risk, what are the ESG implications of carbon intensive voyages and how can back up plans regarding rescue or evacuation be independently assessed at the point of quote?
POSSIBLE HULL FAILURE
IE did some digging online and found the following report from 2020 on the construction of the Titan vessel, with some NASA expertise in the US being involved. It was noted that demand to see the wreck of Titanic was a driving force in building a craft that could go deep. In theory, as deep as 19,000 feet. But the report also noted that the prototype needed work before deployment;
“Over the past couple of years, OceanGate spent millions of dollars building a carbon-hulled submersible known as Titan, which the company hoped would be capable of diving to the Titanic. However, validation tests conducted at the Deep Ocean Test Facility in Maryland found signs of fatigue in the hull, resulting in a depth rating that ruled out Titanic trips.”
WHY CARBON FIBRE?
Conventional thinking would lead you to believe that a steel/titanium hull would be the best option for deep water exploration. But steel hull vessels are hard to get back to the surface once below 2000m, or about 6500 feet. They require a type of foam to be attached to hull acting as ballast. In theory a carbon fibre composite is not only lighter, but stronger, since it has tensile strength. This is why F1 cars use carbon fibre composite as a load-bearing material.
But composite manufacturing is a very precise business. It requires the comp to be free from even the tiniest hole, or void, to retain that tensile strength across the entire surface. Like an eggshell it is strong as a complete, 100% even surface area, but the slightest crack or deformity may cause sudden shattering and collapse into sections.
From the text on the OceanGate website, it seems the Titan was not insured as a conventional vessel. In other words it wasn’t recognised as something general Marine or Hull insurance would cover.
That really leaves a Lloyd’s syndicate as the only option for bespoke insurance for this HNW client trip. Time will tell whether signed disclaimers will stand up in court, assuming the worst has happened.
NO SAT NAV UNDERWATER
One theory regarding the Titan is that it actually got lost making its way to/from Titanic, or became snagged on the wreck itself, which is split into various sections. The Titan submersible has no conventianal ship-to-shore comms and sends a “ping” every 15 minutes or so. The last recorded ping noted by the mothership was at 3pm on Sunday.
Many in the MSM have wondered why the Titan has no emergency black box or beacon locator. It’s likely that the pings received by the mother ship were being sent by something similar to an aircraft beacon locator. Generally these are designed to emit a ping for about 30 days or so, after an incident, so that air crash investigators can locate the wreck. The lack of comms suggests that Titan has lost all power.
The question of using a game controller to steer the Titan is an interesting one. You would expect something more sophisticated in terms of a navigation system, given that NASA was involved in the project.
A trade publication covering the sound and video industry reported earlier today that one journalist on a previous Titan mission was surprised that navigation underwater was “based merely on text messages.”
HOPE VS THE DEEP
IE sends its best to the friends and relatives of the crew and tourists on board the Titan. It takes bravery to embark on such a voyage, not just wealth. Great adventures are to be admired as moments of pure inspiration and courage.