London: The wreckage of the ‘Titanic’ will now be protected under a ‘momentous’ treaty between the United States and United Kingdom (UK) governments signed Monday, 107 years after the mammoth ship hit an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean on its maiden voyage.
The international agreement gives the government’s power to grant or deny licences allowing entry of the wreck or removal of artefacts. It was signed to ensure the resting site of more than 1,500 passengers and crew is preserved and respected.
Built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast, the Titanic sank April 15, 1912 on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. The Titanic was deemed an ‘unsinkable ship’ and was the largest passenger ship afloat at that time.
Of the 2,223 passengers and crew on board, only 706 survived, according to the US Senate report on the disaster, CNN reported.
Signed by the UK in 2003, the treaty comes into force after being ratified by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the end of 2019.
The wreck has not previously been protected under explicit legislation as it lies in international waters.
British Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani described the agreement as ‘momentous’.
“Lying two-and-a-half miles below the ocean surface, the RMS Titanic is the subject of the most documented maritime tragedy in history,””she was quoted as saying by the ‘BBC’. “It will be treated with the sensitivity and respect owed to the final resting place of more than 1,500 lives,” she added.
Ghani said that the UK will now work closely with other North Atlantic countries, like Canada and France, to bring ‘even more protection’ to Titanic.
The wreck was discovered in 1985 about 350 nautical miles off the Canadian coast of Newfoundland, two-and-a-half miles below the ocean surface.
Divers visited the wreckage in August for the first time in 14 years. Images they captured show the ship being swallowed up by the ocean floor and ravaged by metal-eating bacteria.
An international agreement between multiple countries to protect the wreck has been in negotiation since 1986.