OceanGate, the company behind the submersible that imploded during a dive to the wreckage of the Titanic last month, has said that it will suspend operations.
A banner, written in red, appeared at the top of its website on Thursday with the message: “OceanGate has suspended all exploration and commercial operations.” No further details were provided.
An advertisement for an expedition to the Titanic is visible just below the message, inviting readers to “explore the world’s most famous shipwreck”.
OceanGate has come under scrutiny since its Titan submersible imploded undersea, killing all five people on board, including the company’s CEO Stockton Rush.
The cause of Titan’s implosion is currently being investigated by regulatory authorities in the US and Canada. Last week, the US Coast Guard hauled to shore potential human remains and debris from the sub’s wreckage, as part of the international probe.
The submersible first went missing on June 18, kicking off four days of search and rescue efforts. Authorities ultimately determined that the vehicle had suffered a “catastrophic implosion” on the day of its disappearance.
Parts of the sub were discovered 488 metres (1,600 feet) from the bow of the Titanic.
OceanGate had previously come under fire for what some criticised as lax safety practices and a willingness to play fast and loose with its submersible designs, in the name of innovation and cost-cutting.
Yahoo News reported that Rush, the company’s late CEO, had previously boasted about securing carbon fibre for the submarine from the aeroplane manufacturer Boeing at a “big discount” because it was “past its shelf life”.
James Cameron director of the film, Titanic, and himself a deep-sea researcher called the decision to build the submarine out of carbon fibre “fundamentally flawed”. The material, while lightweight, has little ability to withstand the water pressure of the ocean deep, Cameron explained.
Contact with the submersible had also been lost on numerous expeditions in the past.
“Many people in the community were very concerned about this sub,” Cameron said.
“And a number of the top players in the deep-submergence engineering community even wrote letters to the company saying that what they were doing was too experimental to carry passengers and it needed to be certified and so on.”
OceanGate representatives have defended the company’s practices, with Guillermo Sohnlein, the company’s co-founder, stating that Stockton was “very risk-averse” and “committed to safety”.