A US Coast Guard official said authorities were conducting a ‘complex search effort’ with 40 hours of oxygen left on the vessel.
Washington DC – Search and rescue crews are racing under challenging conditions to find a submersible ship exploring the wreckage of the Titanic before it disappeared in the Atlantic Ocean, a US coastguard official said.
Captain Jamie Frederick told reporters Tuesday that the US coastguard and navy, the Canadian military and coastguard, and the ship’s parent company, OceanGate Expeditions, are working under a joint command to conduct the search.
“This is a complex search effort, requiring multiple agencies with subject matter expertise and specialized equipment,” Frederick said.
He said at around 1pm (17:00 GMT) that the boat with five people on board had about 40 hours of oxygen left in it, stressing that the immediate priority was to find it. The sub originally had a 96-hour supply of oxygen before it went missing on Sunday.
“The combined team is working around the clock to bring all available assets and expertise to bear as quickly as possible in an effort to solve this complex problem,” he said.
Frederick vowed to continue the “unrelenting” push to find the ship, named Titan. He added that there was a “full-court press effort” to obtain equipment needed for the search.
The OceanGate expedition costs $250,000 per person. Its journey began in St John’s in the Canadian province of Newfoundland before leaving the Titanic wreckage site hundreds of kilometers to the east, the company’s website showed.
The passengers on the missing ship were: Pakistani-British Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son, Suleman; British billionaire Hamish Harding; Paul-Henri Gargeolet, a 77-year-old French explorer; and Stockton Rush, the founder and CEO of OceanGate Expeditions, based in the US.
On Tuesday, Frederick said search crews had covered 20,000sq km (7,600sq miles) since Sunday – “an area bigger than the state of Connecticut”.
“This is an extraordinary operation; it is a challenging operation. But right now, we’re focused on putting in everything we can and finding as much as we can and getting the assets out there as quickly as we can,” Frederick said.
He said that the planes checked the surface of the water as well as the bottom of the sea using sonar buoys.
Asked if search and rescue crews have the ability to retrieve the vessel if it is found, Frederick said, “Right now, all our efforts are focused on finding the sub. What I can tell you is that we have one team of our country’s best experts in the joint command, and when we get to that point, the experts will look at what the next course of action is.
Another US coastguard official told reporters that visibility was limited on Monday due to fog but it improved on Tuesday.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters Tuesday that President Joe Biden is closely following the search operation.
“The president wants the coastguard to continue to participate in that, and the navy is on standby if they’re needed because they have some deep water capabilities that the coastguard doesn’t necessarily have,” Kirby said.