The wreck of the Titanic could be cut open in a bid to retrieve a prized piece that salvagers claim could be lost forever as it decays on the sea floor.
It is the first time salvagers have openly admitted to a bid to retrieve anything from inside the hull of the ship that sank in the Atlantic in 1912, taking an estimated 1,500 lives with it.
The US-based firm wants to use underwater robots to 'surgically' remove a roof from the Titanic's remains and pluck a significant relic from within it before they are lost to the depths forever, according to the Telegraph.
The controversial move by RMS Titanic Inc is focused on retrieving a piece of communications equipment that played a pivotal role in the tragedy.
It looks set to be the latest chapter in the international tug-of-war over the Titanic's artifacts.
The Telegraph reports the company hopes to retrieve the Marconi wireless the ship's crew used to issue Titanic's infamous distress signals as it sank.
Ships failed to respond in time to the calls from the 'unsinkable' passenger liner after she struck an iceberg during her doomed maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, then plunged more than 12,000ft into the icy depths of the Atlantic.
The tragedy has inspired multiple documentaries and features, including the hit 1997 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.
The ocean liner's wreck has been a continued source of fascination for researchers and salvagers, who have visited its remains repeatedly in bids to unlock the secrets of its sinking and recover its grand treasures.
US company RMS Titanic Inc (RMST), backed by private equity firms, is behind the latest bid to make a salvaging trip to the wreck where it says it will attempt remove the wireless from the ship before it crumbles into ruins.
According to the newspaper, the company detailed its plans in a legal documents, and has insisted that if the device is not retrieved it will be lost forever.
“In the next few years, the overhead is expected to collapse, potentially burying forever the remains of the world’s most famous radio,” the legal document reportedly says.
The documents say the wireless can be retrieved by removing a section of roof using remotely operated vehicles with mechanical arms, which wil then 'surgically' extract the radio.
Three underwater robots would then access a small skylight on the Titanic's deck, above a room where the wireless operators slept and worked.
They plan to film as they attempt to remove the fragile roof, amid turbulent ocean currents, then collect the wireless and transport the parts to a 'previously prepared subsea basket,' before hauling it two-and-half miles up to the surface.
The RMST is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and has official 'salvor-in-possession' status in the US which gives it the exclusive power to retrieve relics from the wreck site, and means it provides regular updates on the Titanic's condition to the world.
It has retrieved thousands of artifacts since the 1980s, from jewellery to victims' shoes and hats, all displayed in shows around the world.
The company has reportedly filed an application in a court in Viriginia that says it wants to send a manned submarine to the wreck to carry out the operation.
Britain is reportedly likely to view the attempt violating a treaty with the US to protect the Titanic wreck from scavengers and grave-robbers.
The wreck site of the lost ship was discovered by famed ocean explorer Robert Ballard in 1985.
In repeated visits revealed to the world the haunting images and footage of passengers' shoes, suitcases, dolls, and crockery preserved on the sea floor.
Relics and memorabilia from the ship are displayed in museums dedicated to Titanic and its passengers' memory, with many permanently on display for the public in Belfast.
The company claims it may be able to restore the wireless to working order, so that the 'voice' of the Titanic could be heard more than a century after she went down.
According to the documents seen by the Telegraph, if the prized wireless is retrieved it would likely go on display at the RMST's exhibition at the Luxor Casino in Las Vegas, before it is toured around the world, including in Belfast at the museum next to the shipyards that birthed the Titanic.
Families and campaigners, including Ballard and Titanic director James Cameron, have worked to protect the ship from plunder.
The film director backed British museums, including the Titanic Belfast, that came close to stripping the firm of its salvage rights in court just last year.
The museums hoped to acquire millions of pounds worth of Titanic artifacts and absorbing them into their permanent collections for the public good.
However the bid failed after private equity firms stepped in to help RMST avoid bankruptcy, with the company saying it would no longer make salvaging trips to the ships and would only retain the right to protect the wreck from plunderers.
It must seek agreement from a judge for every salvage expedition to the wreck.
The Titanic's remains are protected in legislation passed in both the Us and the UK aimed at warding off scavengers, and protecting the Titanic's remains from damage.
The RMST will reportedly challenge the legislation in its latest trip to court by claiming the US has no claim to jurisdiction over the site and no ability to enforce the law there.
A statement from the British Government to the Telegraph admitted the UK has no jurisdiction over a US company and its vessels.
A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: “A legal case being brought by a private US company is not one for the UK Government to respond to.
“UK citizens and UK vessels must abide by The Protection of Wrecks (RMS Titanic) Order.”
The disaster's last survivor, Brit Millvina Dean, was nine weeks old when the ship sank and died in 2009 aged 97, taking her father with it.
Before her death she said she felt the sea-bed debris was fair pickings for salvagers, but stated her belief that the inside of the wreck itself should be 'left in peace.'
It is unclear whether any human remains are still inside the ship's grave site, although there have been claims over the years that Titanic's interior must contain those who went down with the ship.
RMST President Bretton Hunchak as told the Telegraph that his company is focused on preserving history for the future, not chasing profits.
"After all, it's not some kind of Trojan horse so that we can start grabbing suitcases full of diamonds from the wreck."
“This is a careful, surgical operation to rescue a historically significant item so it can teach future generations about the story of Titanic.
“We know that the wreck is deteriorating fast. Why would we let these artefacts disappear too?"