The maker of the lost Titan submersible previously complained about strict passenger-vessel regulations, saying the industry was 'obscenely safe'

  • In a 2019 interview, the Titan's maker lamented "obscenely safe" diving security regulations.

  • CEO Stockton Rush said he understood the regulations but regretted their effect on innovation.

  • Rush is understood to be on board the submersible that lost contact with the surface Sunday.

The founder of the company behind the Titan submersible previously described his industry as "obscenely safe" and complained that passenger-vessel regulations held back innovation.

OceanGate Expeditions CEO Stockton Rush is understood to be aboard the Titan, the submersible that lost contact with the surface Sunday, prompting fears for his safety.

The vessel, which set out with four other passengers to view the wreck of the Titanic, was believed as of early Tuesday to have between 70 and 96 hours of oxygen left, the US Coast Guard said.

Rush's efforts to advance the commercial submersible industry — distinct from the world of submarines —have been well documented in the media.

Describing the industry in a 2019 interview, Rush said that there had been no injuries in the field for decades, adding: "It's obscenely safe because they have all these regulations. But it also hasn't innovated or grown — because they have all these regulations."

OceanGate did not immediately respond to a request for comment, sent outside working hours.

Its website describes a commitment to "high-level operational safety" and the Titan's "unparalleled" hull-monitoring safety system.

The profile of Rush, which appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, describes his efforts to expand human exploration of the deep, calling him a "daredevil inventor."

It chronicles Rush's passion for exploring and his efforts to energize the market in private submersibles, which had long been dampened by the number of industrial accidents in offshore submarine work.

A 1993 regulation put strict controls on safety standards and who could pilot a submersible.

Rush called these developments "understandable but illogical," saying he felt the law was well meaning but lamenting the stifling effect it put on commercial innovation.

His remarks on safety came as part of a wider set of regrets about how little the US government prioritized ocean research.

A 2019 blog post on OceanGate's website cites speed of innovation as one of the reasons the Titan isn't classed according to standard regulatory processes. It said that while the company met standards "where they apply," the slow processes of vessel classification were "anathema to innovation."

Rush's company began to advertise in 2019 commercial trips in the Titan to see the famed Titanic wreck, touting an experimental design whose carbon-fiber hull was considerably lighter than other vehicles.

Trips were postponed, according to the magazine, after the company failed to get the proper permits for its contracted research-support vessel.

As of Tuesday, efforts to locate and contact the Titan were still underway.

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