For the first time in the nearly 108 years the Titanic has sat at the bottom of the North Atlantic, an international agreement with broad protections will safeguard the steamship's remains. The US and UK will have to approve any expeditions to enter the Titanic or remove any artifacts, the BBC reports. The treaty was signed by the UK in 2003 but is just now taking effect, after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made it official for the US in November. UNESCO rules had been the main protections since the Titanic's location was discovered in international waters in 1985, per NPR. The new treaty is more specific about how to obtain permission for expeditions, prohibiting commercial exploitation and setting out punishments for breaking its terms.
Already, there's an issue. An Atlanta company has asked a US court's permission to remove the Marconi wireless telegraph transmitter. RMS Titanic Inc. has taken more than 5,500 items from the ship so far, per the Guardian. The company, which argues that time is running out to get more of the deteriorating items, says the new treaty has "no teeth" in US law. US and UK officials said the idea of the treaty is to preserve to the Titanic, for its history and its role as a grave. "It will be treated with the sensitivity and respect owed to the final resting place of more than 1,500 lives," said the UK's maritime minister. (Read more Titanic stories.)