Titanic Legislation

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R.M.S. TITANIC
LEGISLATION


Cover page of 1912 book on RMS Titanic. (Courtesy of NOAA/IFE/URI).
Photo 49: Cover page of 1912 book.
(NOAA Photo Library.)

Shortly after the Titanic was discovered in 1985, Congress enacted the "R.M.S. Titanic Maritime Memorial Act of 1986" (1986 Act). The 1986 Act called on the United States Secretary of State to negotiate an international agreement to designate the Titanic as an international maritime memorial to those who lost their lives when she sank in 1912 and to encourage in those negotiations the development of guidelines for conducting research, exploration, and salvage of the Titanic. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Canada negotiated the "Agreement Concerning the Shipwrecked Vessel RMS Titanic," (International Agreement) ratified by the United Kingdom in 2003 and signed by the United States in 2004 subject to the enactment of implementing legislation. Legislation providing the Executive branch authority to carry out the obligations of the Agreement is necessary for the United States to ratify it. The International Agreement will take effect after at least two countries ratify it. The legislation will have no significant impact on the federal budget. See Congressional Budget Office scoring of S.2279.

In 2009, the United States Department of State transmitted to Congress proposed legislation to protect R.M.S. Titanic from looting and unscientific salvage and ensure adherence to the scientific rules for research, recovery or salvage that will help preserve the R.M.S. Titanic for present and future generations. In March 2012, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) that would amend the 1986 Act to protect the Titanic and its wreck site and ensure planning and conduct of activities directed at the wreck are consistent with applicable law. According to Sen. Kerry, the "R.M.S. Titanic Maritime Memorial Preservation Act of 2012 (S. 2279)" would: (1) amend the 1986 Act by providing the United States Department of Commerce with the authority to protect the Titanic wreck site from salvage and intrusive research; (2) provide authority to monitor and enforce specific scientific rules to protect the public’s interest in the wreck site and collection; and (3) propose the establishment of a Titanic Advisory Council, modeled on advisory councils previously established under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act.

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