How much did the search for Titan cost? US Coast Guard bill alone will run into millions, experts say

Portland, Maine – The cost of the unprecedented search for the missing Titan submersible will easily run into millions of dollars, experts said on Friday.

The massive international effort of aircraft, surface ships and deep-sea robots began on Sunday when the Titan was reported missing. Searchers raced against a 96-hour clock in the desperate hope of finding and rescuing the ship’s occupants before their oxygen supply ran out.

But all hope was extinguished on Thursday when officials announced the submersible had suffered a catastrophic implosion, killing all five people on board.

A reduced search remained in place on Friday as the robots – remotely operated vehicles, called ROVs – continued to scan the seabed for evidence that could shed light on what happened in the deep waters of the North Atlantic.

The search area spanned thousands of miles — twice the size of Connecticut and in waters 2 1/2 miles (4 kilometers) deep — with agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard, Canadian Coast Guard , the United States Navy and other agencies and private entities.

There is no other comparable ocean research, especially with so many countries and even commercial enterprises involved lately, said Virginia-based naval historian, analyst and author Norman Polmar.

The plane alone is expensive to operate, and the Government Accountability Office has estimated the hourly cost at tens of thousands of dollars. The P-3 Orion turboprop and P-8 Poseidon jet-powered submarine hunters, as well as the C-130 Hercules, were all used in the search.

Some agencies may request refunds. But the U.S. Coast Guard — whose bill alone will run into millions of dollars — is generally prohibited by federal law from collecting reimbursement for any search or rescue service, said Stephen Koerting, a Maine attorney who specializes in maritime law.

“The Coast Guard, both legally and policy-wise, does not seek to recover the costs associated with search and rescue from recipients of these services,” the Coast Guard said in a statement Friday.

The first priority in search and rescue is always to save a life, and search and rescue agencies budget for those expenses, said Mikki Hastings, president and CEO of the National Association for Search and Rescue.

“In the end, these people were in distress. We know what the end result was. But during the search operation, there are people who are in distress,” she said of the Titan submersible.

Relief agencies don’t want people in distress thinking about the cost of a helicopter or other resources when a life is in danger.

“Every missing person deserves to be found. That’s the mission, no matter who they are,” she said.

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