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Greater protection for wreck of Titanic after US and UK sign treaty

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Treaty: the Titanic shipwreck

Treaty: the Titanic shipwreck

Treaty: the Titanic shipwreck

An international treaty has been struck between the UK and the United States to offer the wreck of the Titanic greater protection.

The historic agreement ensures that both governments can grant or deny entry of the wreck and prevent the removal of artefacts from inside the iconic ship.

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

This treaty will officially be announced in Belfast today by UK Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani, who described the step as "momentous".

It comes after the agreement was recently ratified by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The treaty effectively enhances "basic protections" put in place by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), according to the UK Department for Transport.

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 the Titanic's final resting place was discovered 35 years ago.

Experts have claimed many artefacts have been removed and the ship has suffered serious damage from mini-submarines landing on its surface. Lying in international waters, the wreck was previously not protected by explicit legislation.

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

Minister Ghani said she was delighted to be in Belfast to recognise this "important treaty".

"Lying two and a half miles below the ocean surface, the RMS Titanic is the subject of the most documented maritime tragedy in history," she explained.

"This momentous agreement with the United States to preserve the wreck means it will be treated with the sensitivity and respect owed to the final resting place of more than 1,500 lives."

Mrs Ghani continued: "The UK will now work closely with other North Atlantic States to bring even more protection to the wreck of the Titanic."

The minister welcomed the treaty as she met with girls participating in a Stem event held by the 1851 Trust Maritime in Belfast.

The roadshow event aimed to inspire girls to study science, technology, engineering and maths, known as Stem subjects, which are vital in the maritime sector.

The Titanic's lasting legacy has been the drawing up of Safety of Lives at Sea (SOLAS) Convention in 1914, which still today sets the minimum safety standards by which ships are required to comply with while at sea.

One of the world's most famous historic ships, various countries have been engaged in international negotiations in an attempt to preserve the remains of the Titanic since 1986.

Other countries such as Canada and France will now be encouraged to sign up to the new agreement.

The development has also been hailed as an important step by the head of Northern Ireland's biggest - and internationally-renowned - tourist facility about the doomed liner.

Judith Owens, chief executive of visitor attraction Titanic Belfast, said: "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."

Belfast Telegraph