Feds Sued Over Titanic Plan. It's COVID That Could Stop It

RMS Titanic Inc. planned to retrieve the ship's radio, says it has money issues
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 13, 2021 8:53 AM CST
Pandemic Could Sink a Contentious Titanic Expedition
This 2004 photo provided by the Institute for Exploration, Center for Archaeological Oceanography/University of Rhode Island/NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration, shows the remains of a coat and boots in the mud on the sea bed near the Titanic's stern.   (Institute for Exploration, Center for Archaeological Oceanography/University of Rhode Island/NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration)

(Newser) – Fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is threatening a company’s controversial plans to retrieve and exhibit the radio that had broadcast distress calls from the sinking Titanic, according to a court filing made by the firm. RMS Titanic Inc. said Monday that its revenues plummeted after coronavirus restrictions closed its exhibits of Titanic artifacts, causing the firm to seek funding through its parent company. Some of the exhibitions, which are scattered across the country, are still closed; others that have reopened are seeing limited attendance, per the AP. The company’s update, filed with a US District Court in Norfolk, was made in the midst of an ongoing court battle with the US over whether the expedition is legal. Lawyers for the US government have argued that the company must seek the government's permission to remove the radio because the sunken vessel is a recognized memorial to the roughly 1,500 people who died.

A federal admiralty judge in Norfolk had approved the planned expedition in May. But the approval was conditioned on the firm, which owns the salvage rights and oversees a collection of items recovered from the wreck as the court-recognized steward of the artifacts, submitting a plan detailing costs and funding for the operation and conservation of the recovered equipment. RMS Titanic said in Monday's filing that it's still trying to finalize that plan despite missing a Jan. 10 deadline. The company said it hopes to submit a plan by Jan. 29. But if it's unable to, the firm said it would withdraw its original motion seeking the court's permission to retrieve the radio. The US government's effort to stop the expedition is pending in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. But the company’s funding woes appear to pose a more immediate threat. (RMS Titanic suggests the radio could soon be irretrievable.)

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