The P31, a former AFM (Armed Forces of Malta) patrol boat, has been scuttled off the west coast of Comino, Malta in the area known as tal-Matz.
The 52-metre boat was scuttled at a depth of 18 metres. Part of its mast had to be sawn off in order to ensure a distance of five meters between the boat and the the surface of the sea.
With the wreck as new underwater attraction Malta wants to increase the interest of divers coming to Cirkewwa and Comino.
Project coordinator Mark Scerri Simiana said that extensive maintenance was carried out before the boat was sunk, removing traces of oil and other material which could have damaged the marine environment. “Apart from being a diving attraction, the vessel will provide shelter to a host of marine species, increasing the fish and vegetation around the area,” he said. So far, Malta had scuttled nine ships for this purpose.
According to the Times of Malta, the last ship was the P29 in August 2007 near Cirkewwa. Both the P31 and the P29 were used in East Germany during the Cold War era patrolling the river banks between East and West. They were also used for mine sweeping operations between Germany and Denmark. In Malta the AFM used them to patrol the continental shelf and against smuggling operations.
Malta has been voted the third best diving destination in the world by the readers of the UK DIver Magazine, preceded only by Egypt and the Maldives.
The Southern European island nation is an archipelago includes apart from the inhabited islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino, a number of smaller, uninhabited islands. It is situated centrally in the Mediterranean Sea, 93 km south of Sicily.
Tourism Parliamentary Secretary Dr Mario de Marco said the Maltese islands attracted in 2008 almost 55.000 divers. Most of them came from the UK, Germany and Italy.