Irresponsible Tour Plan has Led to Catastrophe

Technological advances are making it possible for ordinary people to visit the deep seas and space. However, it is important to bear in mind that these special trips can involve dangers due to a lack of safety regulations.

Contact was lost with a submersible that set out to visit the wreckage of the Titanic in the North Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Canada. Scattered debris has since been found on the ocean floor. It is believed that the submersible’s hull imploded all at once due to water pressure.

The U.S. Coast Guard announced that all five people on board were killed. This is a historically rare accident in deep water.

The submersible was owned by U.S.-based OceanGate Expeditions and was piloted by the firm’s male chief executive officer. The other four people included a British businessman, a French marine expert and another rich individual. Each passenger reportedly paid about ¥35 million for the trip.

The reality is that there is a certain level of demand among wealthy and adventurous people to see the Titanic up close, despite the risks.

The Titanic lies about 3,800 meters below sea level. Few submersibles are capable of reaching depths of 4,000 meters — where there is strong water pressure — and high-grade equipment is required to reach such locations. It is said to be common for private vessels to secure certification from third-party organizations.

However, the submersible in this case did not obtain such certification. Although there were calls from both inside and outside the company for the submersible to undergo strength-testing and gain certification, the CEO reportedly refused to heed the advice based on his personal theory that regulations hinder technological innovation.

It must be said that as the head of a company that carries passengers on tours, his attitude with its scant regard for human life was irresponsible. In light of such circumstances, it can be said that such an accident was highly likely to occur.

Doubts had also been raised about the structure of the submersible’s hull. Experts had long voiced concerns over perceived insufficiencies in the strength of the cylindrical vessel’s uniquely designed body, which comprised a fusion of multiple materials.

It has been reported that the passengers signed a document in advance acknowledging that the vessel was experimental and there was a danger of injury or death. However, the company could be held liable in the future if it is found to have been grossly negligent.

The British businessman aboard the submersible also took part in a short space trip aboard a craft operated by a U.S. space company. Rocket launches are regulated by U.S. authorities, but their regulations are aimed at ensuring safety on the ground — guaranteeing passenger safety is not the primary concern.

If adventure tours run by private companies gain more traction, it is possible that fees could fall, opening the door to clients other than the very wealthy. It is vital to discuss tighter regulations for such special tours before this business-realm burgeons.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 29, 2023)