Boeing and the University of Washington have both denied any involvement in the design of the missing Titanic tourist submersible, despite claims made by OceanGate Expeditions. On its website, OceanGate claimed that the submersible, named Titan, was designed with assistance from Boeing, the University of Washington, and NASA. However, both Boeing and the university confirmed on Wednesday that they were not involved in the project.
Stockton Rush, the founder and CEO of OceanGate, previously asserted that the submersible was created in collaboration with experts, including Boeing, NASA, and the University of Washington. He emphasized the safety of the sub, stating that while other components may fail, the pressure vessel, which was developed in partnership with Boeing, NASA, and the University of Washington, ensures the safety of the occupants.
OceanGate’s website stated that the Titan was “designed and engineered by OceanGate Inc. in collaboration [with] experts” from Boeing and other entities. However, a spokesperson from Boeing clarified that Boeing was not a partner on the Titan and did not participate in its design or construction. Similarly, a spokesperson from the University of Washington confirmed that the university was not involved in the design of the Titan submersible.
In a 2021 court filing, OceanGate mentioned that Titan resulted from over eight years of work, including engineering and development conducted under a $5 million contract with the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. However, Kevin Williams, the executive director of the laboratory, denied any involvement in the design, engineering, or testing of the Titan submersible used in the RMS Titanic expedition.
OceanGate had initially signed a research collaborative agreement worth $5 million with the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory, but only $650,000 worth of work was completed before the two organizations parted ways. The collaboration resulted in the creation of a steel-hulled vessel called Cyclops 1, capable of diving to depths of 500 meters, which is significantly shallower than the depths reached by OceanGate’s Titan submersible.
It is worth noting that OceanGate’s safety protocols and practices have faced renewed scrutiny following the submersible’s disappearance. Passengers boarding the submersible are required to sign a waiver acknowledging the experimental nature of the vessel and the potential risks associated with it.
Despite criticisms and concerns raised by former employees, industry experts, and trade groups regarding safety and rigorous testing, OceanGate has chosen not to pursue classification or certification from independent organizations. They argue that the lengthy approval process of classification agencies does not adequately address operational procedures and decision-making processes necessary for risk mitigation at sea.
In 2018, OceanGate terminated the employment of its director of marine operations, David Lochridge, who had voiced concerns about the research and development process and safety protocols of the Titan submersible. Lochridge had suggested utilizing a classification agency to inspect and certify the vessel, along with conducting non-destructive testing to ensure its integrity. OceanGate rejected these requests and refused to pay for inspection by a classification agency.
The legal dispute between Lochridge and OceanGate was settled out of court in November 2018. OceanGate later encountered battery issues during its 2022 expedition, which required manual attachment to the lifting platform.
Overall, the involvement of Boeing, the University of Washington, and NASA in the design of OceanGate’s Titan submersible has been denied by all parties involved, raising concerns about the submersible’s safety and the lack of rigorous testing and certification processes.