Legislation to Protect the Titanic Moves Forward

The Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA), with the assistance of Cultural Heritage Partners, PLLC (CHP), is leading the charge for legislation to protect the Titanic wreck to become law, and we hope it will be passed during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress.

In March 2012, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) known as S.2279, the “R.M.S. Titanic Maritime Memorial Preservation Act of 2012” (the Act). The Act is intended amend a 1986 law to provide additional protection for the Titanic and its wreck site, and the Act’s passage will help minimize harm from activities directed at the wreck (such as salvage, research, and tours). Right now, both natural causes and human activities are damaging the Titanic site. Little can be done to prevent the natural aging and corrosion of the wreck site, but the Act can help prevent further physical deterioration caused by tour groups and underwater vehicles. The Act aims to protect the site’s archeological integrity and to ensure that it is treated as a maritime memorial for the 1,500 people who perished when it sank. So far, the Act has been well received by the Senate.

On March 29, 2012, the Act was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and on July 31, 2012, the Committee ordered the Act to be favorably reported without amendment. This means that, with virtually no debate over the merits of the bill, the Committee approved of the Act as it was written and suggested that it move forward to become an approved law. On behalf of SHA, CHP has been actively meeting with Senate staffers on Capitol Hill to promote the purpose of the Act, with the goal of getting it passed with unanimous consent during Congress’s quickly approaching lame duck session. To assist with this goal, CHP has drafted summaries of the legislation to provide to staffers to educate them about the purpose and nuances of the Act. CHP has also been coordinating with other interested groups to garner support for the Act in the House of Representatives. If all goes well, S.2279 will provide protection for the R.M.S. Titanic and its wreck site for many years to come.