The US government is challenging a planned expedition to recover items of historical interest from the Titanic.
The expedition is being organized by RMS Titanic Inc (RMST), the Georgia-based firm that owns the salvage rights to the world’s most famous shipwreck.
The company exhibits artifacts that have been recovered from the site at the bottom of the North Atlantic, from silverware to a piece of the Titanic’s hull.
The US government’s battle to stop the expedition in the US District Court in Norfolk, Virginia – which oversees Titanic salvage matters – hinges on federal law and a pact with the UK to treat the shipwreck as a hallowed gravesite.
The dispute comes more than two months after the Titan submersible imploded near the sunken ocean liner, killing five people.
The ship hit an iceberg and sank in 1912, while on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, killing more than 1,500 of the 2,208 passengers and crew on board.
Among the US government’s concerns is the possible disturbance of any human remains that may still exist.
“RMST is not free to disregard this validly enacted federal law, yet that is its stated intent,” US lawyers argued in court documents filed on Friday. They said the shipwreck “will be deprived of the protections Congress granted it”.
RMST’s expedition is tentatively planned for May next year, according to a report it filed with the court in June.