The now-infamous search for the missing Titan submersible saw millions of dollars worth of Canadian military equipment and personnel deployed in the search, estimates suggest.
The figure, calculated by Global News with data provided by the government, gives an idea of the financial value of Ottawa’s involvement in the search for the lost vessel, which suddenly imploded while on an expedition to the Titanic wreckage in June.
The operation fell within the budgets of the departments involved – Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Department of National Defence (DND) – spokespeople for both told Global News. Officials say that means DND did not incur incremental, or additional, costs while Fisheries and Oceans Canada – which oversees the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) – said it does not track expenditures incurred from specific search and rescue cases.
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“Responding to incidents is part of our overall daily operations, and as a result it would be difficult to calculate and allocate costs on a case-by-case basis,” the fisheries spokesperson told Global News.
“Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) resources respond to incidents of distress.… The goal is to save lives and CAF search and rescue services are provided free of cost to those in peril; they do not function on a cost-recovery basis,” the DND spokesperson said.
But based on the resources deployed in the search, the time they were deployed and their average hourly operating costs, the total value of the recovery operation appears to be around $3,125,226 to $3,130,576.
Titan search captivated world’s attention
The search for Titan – a deep-sea submersible operated by American tourism and expeditions company OceanGate – captivated the world’s attention following its sudden disappearance on June 18.
The U.S. and Canadian governments scrambled resources to find it once it was reported missing. Titan suddenly lost communication with Canadian vessel Polar Prince an hour and 45 minutes into its descent.
Five people were aboard Titan: OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, British billionaire Hamish Harding, French explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son, Suleman. OceanGate had been offering expeditions to the Titanic, one of the world’s most famous shipwrecks, for US$250,000 each.
What went wrong with the Titan Submersible?
After it was reported lost, it was revealed Titan had roughly 96 hours of breathable air on board, which set the clock for crews to find it.
The search area spanned thousands of miles — twice the size of Connecticut and in waters four kilometres deep — with agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. navy and other entities involved.
A glimmer of hope emerged on June 21 when what appeared to be banging noises were picked up from sonar-equipped buoys dropped by Canadian CP-140 Aurora long-range patrol aircraft.
However, all hopes for a positive outcome vanished on June 22 when the U.S. Coast Guard, which led the international rescue mission, confirmed it had found debris belonging to Titan near the Titanic.
Officials said the vessel suffered a “catastrophic implosion.”
Industry experts later told Global News the implosion would’ve happened instantly at Titan’s depth, and that over time, submersibles like Titan can develop “little tiny micro-cracks” from multiple high-pressure descents, potentially leading to disaster if not caught.
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The U.S. Coast Guard’s investigation into the matter is ongoing, while the Transportation Safety Board of Canada continues its own probe into the incident and the Polar Prince’s role in the expedition.
OceanGate has since suspended all exploration and commercial operations.
What was the value of the deployment?
The spokespeople provided estimates for the resources committed to the Titan operation.
The Department of National Defence said HMCS Glace Bay assisted in the operation for six to seven hours, while one of its Aurora long-range patrol aircrafts logged 82.5 hours in the search. Glace Bay’s hourly operating cost is roughly $5,350, while the Aurora’s hourly operating cost is about $29,662.
Therefore, the HMCS Glace Bay’s deployment would be valued anywhere between $32,100 and $37,450, while the Aurora’s operation would be $2,447,115.
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The military’s contributions to the recovery operation are then estimated to be valued between $2,479,215 and $2,484,565.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Coast Guard also had several assets deployed for the Titan search.
The CCGS Kopit Hopson 1752 was tasked for half a day with an average daily operating cost of $48,000; CCGS John Cabot was tasked for 5.5 days with an average daily operating cost of $36,000; CCGS Ann Harvey was tasked for three days with an average daily operating cost of $48,000; CCGS Terry Fox was tasked for three days with an average daily operating cost of $65,000; CCGS Teleost was tasked for 2.5 days with an average daily operating cost of $31,000 and a CCG helicopter flew 1.9 hours in support of the operation, coming in at an operating cost of $7,511.
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Therefore, CCG’s efforts are estimated to have a value of $646,011.
“That figure does not include incremental costs like additional fuel, crew travel, salaries, and overtime, given that the Coast Guard does not track expenditures incurred from specific search and rescue cases,” the spokesperson for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans added.
“The Canadian Coast Guard does not seek reimbursement for costs associated with search and rescue cases. We are part of the Canadian search and rescue system which operates under international conventions, agreements, and domestic regulations to provide protection for all mariners who find themselves in danger at sea.”
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The U.S. government hasn’t revealed the value of its operations in the Titan recovery effort.
There’s no other comparable ocean search, especially with so many countries and even commercial enterprises being involved in recent times, Norman Polmar, a naval historian, analyst and author, told The Associated Press in June.
Some American agencies can seek reimbursements, but the U.S. Coast Guard is generally prohibited by federal law from collecting reimbursement pertaining to any search or rescue service, Stephen Koerting, an attorney in Maine who specializes in maritime law, told the AP.
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The U.S. government’s role in searching for Titan was estimated to be around US$1.2 million as of June 23, according to The Washington Post.
The first priority in search and rescue is always saving a life, and search and rescue agencies budget for such expenses, Mikki Hastings, president and CEO of the National Association for Search and Rescue, told the AP in June.
Rescue agencies don’t want people in distress thinking about a helicopter’s price or other resources when a life is in danger, Hastings explained.
“Every person who is missing – they deserve to be found,” Hastings said.
“That’s the mission regardless of who they are.”