IT WAS the ship doomed to sink to the bottom of the ocean on its maiden voyage.

More than 540 Southampton residents died when Titanic hit an iceberg and sunk while Crossing the Atlantic on its maiden journey to New York.

Of the ship’s 900-strong crew, 714 gave their addresses as Southampton, and all but three were men. Just 176 returned to the city.

In total, more than 1,500 passengers and crew died.

But now the RMS Titanic wreck is to be protected under historic treaty with US

An international agreement will come into force to protect the culturally significant wreck site.

The UK and US governments can now grant or deny licences allowing entry to the wreck or the removal of artefacts from its hull.

The treaty will ensure the deep-sea grave of more than 1,500 people is preserved and respected

This will strengthen the basic level of protection for the "most famous ship in the world".

Lying in international waters, the wreck was previously not protected by explicit legislation.

Daily Echo: RMS TitanicRMS Titanic

The will be better protected under an historic international agreement, Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani confirms during a visit to Belfast today

Signed by the UK in 2003, the treaty comes into force after being signed by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo at the end of last year.

The maritime minister will confirm the agreement during a visit to the 1851 Trust maritime roadshow for girls in Belfast, which aims to inspire girls to take STEM subjects vital to a career in maritime.

Nusrat Ghani said: "I am delighted to visit Belfast today to recognise this important treaty coming into effect.

Daily Echo: RMS TitanicRMS Titanic

"Lying two and a half miles below the ocean surface, the RMS Titanic is the subject of the most documented maritime tragedy in history.

"This momentous agreement with the United States to preserve the wreck means it will be treated with the sensitivity and respect owed to the final resting place of more than 1,500 lives.

"The UK will now work closely with other North Atlantic States to bring even more protection to the wreck of the Titanic."

Registered in Britain and built in Belfast, the RMS Titanic set sail on its maiden voyage from Southampton on April 10, 1912.

On April 15, 1912, after striking an iceberg, the ship broke apart and sank to the bottom of the ocean taking with it the lives of more than 1,500 passengers and crew.

The wreck of the Titanic was discovered in September 1985 approximately 350 nautical miles off the Canadian coast of Newfoundland, two and a half miles below the ocean surface. Multiple countries have been negotiating an international agreement to protect and preserve the wreck since 1986, with the ratification of the treaty by the UK and the US marking a hugely significant step forwards.

The UK will now take a leading role in working with other North Atlantic States, including Canada and France, to urge them to sign up to the agreement and bring even more protection to the wreck of the Titanic.