The wreck of the Titanic is to be protected under what is being described as an historic international agreement between Britain and the US.
The treaty, which was signed by Britain in 2003, now comes into force following ratification by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the end of last year.
Britain’s Maritime Secretary Nusrat Ghani confirmed the agreement today (Tuesday) on a visit to Belfast, where the ship was built.
Both governments have passed legislation giving them the power to grant or deny licences authorising people entering the hull sections of the Titanic and removing artefacts found outside the hull.
According to Britain’s Department for Transport, this strengthens the basic level of protection for the wreck, previously afforded by UNESCO.
The Titanic, which lies just over 4km below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, in international waters, was not previously protected by explicit legislation. The ship sank on 15 April 1912 after striking an iceberg, killing more than 1,500 passengers and crew.
“This momentous agreement with the United States to preserve the wreck means it will be treated with the sensitivity and respect owed to the final resting place of more than 1,500 lives,” said Ghani.
The wreck of the Titanic was discovered in September 1985 off the Canadian coast of Newfoundland. A number of countries have been negotiating an international agreement to protect and preserve it since 1986.
Britain says it will now work with other North Atlantic States, including Canada and France, to urge them to sign up to the agreement and bring even more protection to the wreck.