The Search for the Missing Submersible Titan
The U.S. Coast Guard is currently engaged in a search operation for a missing research submersible called Titan, which vanished during a mission to explore the wreckage of the Titanic. The cost for a spot on the submersible was $250,000.
A Young and Inspirational Team
In an interview via Zoom for Teledyne Marine, Stockton Rush, CEO and founder of OceanGate, was asked about the fact that the “tenure” of a lot of the staff on the submersibles was “obviously not significant” — “a lot of young folks coming out of school.”
Rush replied that while other sub-operators typically have gentlemen who are ex-military submariners and “you’ll see a whole bunch of 50-year-old white guys,” he wanted their team “to be younger, to be inspirational.”
“I’m not going to inspire a 16-year-old to go pursue marine technology, but a 25-year-old who is a sub-pilot or platform operator or one of our techs can be inspirational,” Rush said.
“We also want our team to have a variety of different backgrounds,” he said.
The Importance of Experience
While there is no evidence that staff error led to this incident, it has to be said that hiring staff to be “inspirational” rather than on the basis of their experience sounds like a really bad idea.
Diversity hiring in any job situation can cull the best and the brightest and reduce standards, but in some industries, whom you hire may mean the difference between life and death. In high-stakes industries where human lives are at risk, such as flying a plane, performing surgery, or operating a 22-foot vessel in the Atlantic Ocean at twice the depth of the Grand Canyon, the only criteria that should matter should be education and experience.
Just how DEEP could the missing OceanGate’s Submersible Titan be? This video gives perspective of the depth of the Titanic wreckage. 3.8km deep into the Atlantic Ocean pic.twitter.com/kVwEXvOftv
— Tshepo (@chemicaIydriven) June 21, 2023
Experienced professionals have honed their skills, developed a deep understanding of potential risks and challenges, and cultivated the ability to navigate complex situations with composure and expertise.
An inexperienced staff on a submersible may fulfill diversity ideals and look “inspirational” but can lack the seasoned judgment and decision-making capabilities to mitigate risks and deal with unforeseen catastrophes.
Another report emerging about OceanGate relates to a lawsuit filed in 2018 in the U.S. District Court in Seattle by David Lochridge, who previously held the position of OceanGate’s director of marine operations for the Titan project.
According to the claim, Lochridge raised serious concerns during a company meeting in January 2018 about significant safety issues within the company, including a lack of thorough unmanned testing for the craft, an alarm system that provided only milliseconds of warning before potential implosion, and a porthole that was certified to withstand pressures of only 1,300 meters despite OceanGate’s plan to operate the submersible at depths of 4,000 meters.
Lochridge said he faced hostility during the inspection and was denied access to essential documentation that should have been readily available. He claims he then was abruptly given a mere 10 minutes to collect his belongings and leave the premises.
In response to this lawsuit, OceanGate filed a counterclaim against Lochridge, accusing him of violating a non-disclosure agreement.
In his counterclaim, Lochridge stated that OceanGate intended to expose passengers to significant risks by placing them in an experimental submersible. He also contended that the Titan was not adequately equipped to reach the depths of approximately 13,123 feet where the wreckage of the Titanic is located.
Former OceanGate employee was fired after raising concerns about sub’s worthiness to descend extreme depths and refusing to greenlight manned tests of early models. He was director of marine operations and responsible for safety of all crew and clients https://t.co/bemJm5x1PD
— Kim Zetter (@KimZetter) June 20, 2023
According to his bio in Celebsweek, Lochridge is a 49-year-old Scottish freelance submersible pilot.
Just one of those uninspiring, experienced, (almost) “50-year-old white guys” who might have made a difference to how things turned out.
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