Access to underwater heritage sites such as wrecks has so far not been specifically regulated. New regulations will allow Heritage Malta to offer Maltese and foreign divers regulated access to a significant number of underwater wrecks going back to the two world wars.
Besides protecting such sites, the new system is expected to offer local diving schools the opportunity to register with Heritage Malta, against a fee, in order to be able to take divers down to the listed zones. Boats transporting divers to a close proximity of the sites will also be required to register.
Enforcing these new regulations is going to be a joint effort between all the authorities involved, including the university, Heritage Malta and patrol boats.
“As soon as a boat moors off the wreck, its registration will be confirmed or otherwise against our database. Registered diving schools are also encouraged to inform us if they spot unauthorised divers around these wrecks. It is in their interest to make sure the system works smoothly—it is in the interest of everyone who values our cultural heritage, actually,” marine archaeologist Dr Timmy Gambin told Times of Malta.
Gambin is a senior lecturer in the Department of Classics and Archaeology at the University of Malta, and recently made presentations at EuroTek 2018 and the Wreck Festival in Warsaw on a Phoenician shipwreck off Xlendi Bay of Gozo Island, which we featured in issue #40.
This wreck has been deemed to be the oldest shipwreck in the central Mediterranean. Gambin’s explorations has yielded a number of historically significant results and artefacts, such as amphorae from North Africa and western Sicily and grinding stones made of lava, which originated in Pantelleria.