Who Owns The Remnants Of The Titanic?
The sinking of the Titanic has captured the imagination of the world for decades. Because of that interest anything associated with the ship takes on additional weight. An ongoing legal battle over ownership of the remnants of the ocean liner is currently heating up.
Thousands of artifacts have been recovered from the ship which went down in the north Atlantic in 1912 killing 1,522 people. The artifacts could be worth over $100 million. There have been several voyages down to the ship to recover various items. The company RMS Titanic (RMST) has emerged as the owner of the salvage rights. RMST is considering a seventh dive next year, its first since 2004 although other dives, including one financed by "Titanic" director James Cameron, have taken place. RMST has already recovered 5,900 artifacts from the ship during the first six dives. Legally the company does not own the ship nor the recovered items and it has gone to court in pursuit of limited ownership as a way to make up for the huge salvage costs. RMST shareholders would like the company to be more profitable. An agreement between Britain and the U.S. protects the Titanic as an international memorial and protects the site from unauthorized treasure hunters.
RMST would like to be declared the legal owner of the existing Titanic collection in order to recover some of the costs of salvage which have not been covered by revenues from the touring exhibition which has been shown at various museums. If RMST were declared the owner it could also sell the collection to a museum. If it cannot get the rights, RMST has asked a salvage reward of $225 million.
The US state department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington would like to limit ownership rights and keep the collection as a single entity. Robert Ballard, the oceanographer who first discovered the site in 1985 has come out against repeated tourist dives and salvage operations because he is concerned that these actions are hastening the complete destruction of the wreck. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said that the remaining structure may collapse within the next 50 years.