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Court hearing to discuss contested Titanic expedition is canceled after firm scales back dive plan

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A federal admiralty court in Virginia has canceled a Friday hearing to discuss a contested expedition to the Titanic after the salvage firm scaled back its dive plans. But a looming court battle over the 2024 mission is not over yet.

RMST Titanic Inc. owns the salvage rights to the world’s most famous shipwreck. It originally planned to possibly retrieve artifacts from inside the Titanic’s hull, informing the court of its intentions in June.

In August, the U.S. government filed a motion to intervene, arguing that the court should stop the expedition. U.S. attorneys cited a 2017 federal law and an agreement with Great Britain to restrict entry into the Titanic’s hull because it’s considered a grave site.

Lawyers on each side of the case were set to discuss the matter Friday before a U.S. District Judge in Norfolk who oversees Titanic salvage matters.

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But the company said this week that it no longer planned to retrieve artifacts or do anything else that might involve the 2017 law. RMST is now opposing the government’s motion to intervene as a party in its salvage case before the admiralty court.

RMST has been the court-recognized steward of the Titanic’s artifacts since 1994. Its collection holds thousands of items following several dives, the last of which was in 2010. The firm exhibits anything from silverware to a piece of the ship’s hull.

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The company said it changed the dive plans because its director of underwater research, Paul-Henri Nargeolet, died in the implosion of the Titan submersible near the Titanic shipwreck in June. The Titan was operated by a separate company, OceanGate, to which Nargeolet was lending expertise.

Nargeolet was supposed to lead the 2024 expedition.

The Titanic was traveling from Southampton, England, to New York when it struck an iceberg and sank in 1912. About 1,500 of the roughly 2,200 people on board died.

The wreck was discovered on the North Atlantic seabed in 1985.