Malta scuttles patrol boat, creates new artificial reef

Malta scuttles patrol boat, creates new artificial reef

The decommissioned army patrol boat was scuttled on Saturday morning off Żonqor Point in a bid to stimulate dive tourism.

The operation was organised by the Tourism Authority together with the Ministry for Tourism and the Association of Professional Diving Schools of Malta, Gozo and Comino.

The boat was scuttled and sank between the wrecks of St Michael and Melita, two tugboats that also serve as scuba diving sites. 

According to the Professional Diving School Association, the vessel is resting on the seabed at a depth of around 20 metres, whereas Television Malta states the depth is 27m.

The former Armed Force of Malta (AFM) patrol boat was decommissioned in 2005 as the AFM sought to upgrade its ageing fleet, and had long been scheduled for scuttling, but the process took longer than expected. In 2012, it was planned to have been scuttled outside Marsalforn Bay in Gozo, but those plans were never carried out after environmental authorities flagged concerns.

In a comment to Television Malta, the executive head of the Malta Tourism Authority, Johann Buttigieg, explained the plan to submerge the patrol boat was conceived over a number of years, in fact, seven years to establish the proper environment after studies. He said that similar arrangements are being made for the vessel Hephaestus.