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Daring expedition to remove artefacts hidden inside Titanic is piracy, says DUP's Robinson

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A computer generated image of the Titanic on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean

A computer generated image of the Titanic on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean

A computer generated image of the Titanic on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean

A daring new expedition to seize treasures hidden inside the Titanic for the first time amounts to "pillaging and pilfering the wreck", a DUP MP has said.

On Tuesday, US firm RMS Titanic Inc revealed plans to cut open the decaying shipwreck and remove the famous Marconi wireless system, described as the "voice of Titanic".

The Harland & Wolff-constructed passenger liner lies on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean in two main pieces, a third of a mile apart.

The Belfast-built Titanic, which sank after hitting an iceberg on its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912, lies at a depth of about 12,500 feet, around 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland.

The tragedy claimed the lives of 1,517 people.

Dozens of expeditions to the wreck have been carried out since Titanic's final resting place was discovered 35 years ago.

RMS Titanic Inc (RMST) has recovered thousands of items from the vast debris field surrounding Titanic but the Marconi would be the first artefact taken from inside the wreck itself.

Once recovered, the Marconi wireless and other artefacts would be put on display at the Luxor casino in Las Vegas and then taken on a tour around the world.

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East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson

Kevin Scott

In legal documents seen by the Daily Telegraph, the firm said it would "surgically" remove a deckhouse roof and use underwater robots to recover the radio which broadcast Titanic's final distress signals.

The firm was awarded sole salvage rights to the Titanic nearly 30 years ago, and remains the only entity permitted to recover items from the wreck site.

In court documents filed at the United States District Court in Eastern Virginia, RMST said: "Without the recovery and conservation of these artefacts, the ability to experience additional items would be limited to less than 150 people, an elite group who have the privilege and means to travel to the wreck site.

"The company places the highest value of ensuring that any recovery is completed in a respectful and judicious manner taking into account the sensitivities of such actions."

RMST has vowed to "ignore" a new international treaty struck earlier this week between the UK and United States to offer the wreck of the Titanic greater protection from scavengers, saying it has "no teeth" and cannot be enforced in US law.

The purpose of the treaty is to ensure the resting site of all those who perished in the disaster is respected and preserved, according to both governments.

But East Belfast DUP MP Gavin Robinson has likened the latest expedition to "piracy" and urged the British Government to intervene.

He said: "I think it's important that we get behind Government and make sure that there are robust efforts in place that would frustrate the efforts of those who want to simply profiteer.

"The idea that a vested connection would warrant pilfering and pillaging what is essentially a tomb to the sacrifice to those who were aboard Titanic, I think it's entirely misguided.

"If the detail of this agreement is not sufficiently robust to frustrate their efforts, I think that's where we need to place our attention now."

However family members of the passengers and crew who died in the tragedy have given their blessing to the project, saying it was time to retrieve Titanic's artefacts before they were lost forever.

In recent weeks RMST has sought approval from the relatives including Vanessa Beecham (59), whose great-uncle Edward Biggs died in the sinking aged 21.

She said: "I don't see this as a problem.

"They raised the Mary Rose to the surface in the 1980s.

"So in 100 years people will probably go back to the Titanic and seize whatever they can," she added.

"The people who died that night, including my great-uncle, are long gone.

"If the wireless can be retrieved in a sensitive way, then they have my blessing."

Judith Owens, chief executive of Titanic Belfast, added: "We welcome any additional protection and safeguarding of the wreck, in line with the views of our strategic partner Dr Robert Ballard who discovered her in 1985."

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