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Titan Sub Search Could Cost Taxpayers Millions

Experts estimate that the rescue effort for the Titan submersible quickly surpassed a million bucks, but the U.S. Coast Guard won’t try and recoup its costs

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A photo of the Titan submersible diving beneath the ocean.
The Titan submersible went missing last Sunday.
Photo: Ocean Gate / Handout/Anadolu Agency (Getty Images)

The search for the Titan submersible captured the world’s attention last week. For a few days, we were all hoping for a quick recovery of everyone involved, analyzing the design of the craft and concocting theories about giant squid attacks – we were all hooked. But while we knew that everyone on board the sub paid $250,000 to be there, did anyone consider the cost of the rescue attempt?

Well, estimates are now starting to trickle in for the cost of the rescue mission, which saw all manner of planes, ships and remote subs scour the wreckage of the Titanic for any sign of the OceanGate craft. After four days, the search was ended after it was determined that the Titan submersible imploded while diving beneath the sea.


Now, AP News reports that the cost of that rescue effort could spiral into the millions of dollars after it called on agencies and privateers from around the globe to lend their latest equipment to the effort. According to the site:

“The aircraft, alone, are expensive to operate, and the Government Accountability Office has put the hourly cost at tens of thousands of dollars. Turboprop P-3 Orion and jet-powered P-8 Poseidon sub hunters, along with C-130 Hercules, were all utilized in the search.”

A photo taken from the air by the Coast Guard of a search ship in the water.
The U.S. Coast Guard spent millions on the search.
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard (Getty Images)

What’s more, while the search area was scaled back in recent days, the sheer volume of water being scoured for any trace of the lost sub didn’t help matters. Agencies were searching an area of the Atlantic Ocean that was “twice the size of Connecticut” and included water that went as far as two and a half miles down.

The complexities of a search like this meant that the costs soon began spiraling. As of Friday, The Washington Post predicted that America’s role in the search “has cost about $1.2 million to date.” But, the final figure could soon surpass that estimate, as the site explains:

“The complete costs, and who ultimately pays them, are unknown and depend on several factors. The search employed private companies and research vessels carrying remote operated vehicles, including the one that ultimately found the Titan. It is unclear if the U.S. government will pay those entities, but it is possible if the Defense Department put them under contract.”


However, there is one agency involved in the search that is sure not to go hunting for recuperation, and that’s the U.S. Coast Guard. According to AP News, the U.S. agency is “generally prohibited by federal law” from recuperating its cost following a rescue mission.

A photo of two research ships joining the search for the Titan.
All manner of ships joined the search for Titan.
Photo: Jordan Pettitt/PA Images (Getty Images)

In a statement released Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard said: “The Coast Guard, as a matter of both law and policy, does not seek to recover the costs associated with search and rescue from the recipients of those services.”

But while the cost of the search is expected to rise while workers continue looking for debris from the sub, it’s worth remembering that the bill is expected to be eclipsed by the amount the U.S. spent shooting a Chinese spy balloon out the sky with fighter jets and Sidewinder missiles.