What laws govern the adventure sub industry?
Omar Elwafaii
North America;United States of America
What laws govern the adventure sub industry?

Questions surrounding the future of exploratory submersibles, often called ‘adventure subs’, are arising after all five passengers of the OceanGate Titan died during a descent to view the ill-fated Titanic.

In many cases, national laws don’t carry on to international waters, where many deep-sea expeditions take place. Although there are international maritime rules and laws, they don't provide safety and regulatory oversight for expeditions like the Titan's.

If a vessel is registered in the U.S., or with an international agency that regulates safety, then it would have to follow certain standards, but it’s easy to avoid that by registering in a country like the Bahamas where oversight is very relaxed and where, in most cases, U.S. laws don’t apply.

In the case of OceanGate, the late CEO told the AP in 2021 that it was a U.S.-based company, but the company that carried out the dives, OceanGate Expeditions, was based in the Bahamas.

Experts believe the families of the Titan passengers could sue OceanGate in the U.S. for wrongful death or negligence, but they could be dismissed due to the waivers passengers signed before going down.

“We’re at a point in submersible operations in deep water that’s kind of akin to where aviation was in the early 20th century,” Salvatore Mercogliano, a history professor, told the AP. 

“Aviation was in its infancy — and it took accidents for decisions to be made to be put into laws,” Mercogliano said.

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