An international search and rescue operation has entered a critical phase as authorities race against time to locate the missing Titan submersible and rescue its passengers.

With the oxygen supply of the submersible expected to deplete by 11 a.m., Thursday (US Time), efforts have been expanded exponentially, involving multinational cooperation and the deployment of advanced resources.

The Titan submersible, carrying a total of five passengers, embarked on a voyage to explore the Titanic wreckage site. Among the passengers are British explorer Hamish Harding, two members of a prominent Pakistani business family, a Titanic expert, and the CEO of OceanGate, the Washington state-based company operating the vehicle.

The search area, spanning a vast expanse of water twice the size of Connecticut and reaching depths of 2.5 miles, presents a formidable challenge. However, the US Coast Guard said that multinational coordination and cooperation have become the cornerstone of the rescue operation. A team of French specialists in remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) has joined the search, alongside an expert submariner from the British Royal Navy.

In a press briefing, Capt. Jamie Frederick, the First Coast Guard District response coordinator, said that the rescue efforts have witnessed a significant expansion, with additional ships, underwater vessels, and sophisticated equipment being mobilized.

“There is an enormous complexity associated with this case, due to the location being so far offshore and the coordination between multiple agencies and nations,” Frederick said.

As the search continues, the US Coast Guard fears the oxygen supply aboard the Titan is rapidly diminishing. Limited rations are also a concern, adding urgency to the rescue mission.

Frederick also said that they remain in constant communication with the families of the passengers, and any decision to transition from a search and rescue operation to a recovery mission will involve careful consideration of all available information.

“When you’re in the middle of a search and rescue case, you always have hope,” he said.

Meanwhile, the US Navy has announced the arrival of a special deep-water salvage system capable of hoisting up to 60,000 pounds in St. John’s, Canada. While it may take up to 24 hours to prepare for deployment, this advanced system could play a pivotal role in raising the Titan to the surface.

The situation has shed light on previous safety concerns surrounding the operations of OceanGate. Documents from the federal court in Virginia reveal warnings about safety issues and potential catastrophic outcomes related to the experimental nature of the submersible. Electrical system and battery problems were also reported during the Titan’s initial voyage in 2011.

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