Malta’s most recent addition to its fleet of artificially sunken wrecks for scuba divers, a decommissioned Armed Forces of Malta P-33 patrol boat, has been severely damaged by winter storms, according to reports.
The former East German Navy vessel was scuttled in July 2021 in a joint effort by the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) and Professional Diving School Association of Malta, Gozo and Comino (PDSA). However, divers who have recently explored the wreck say that it now lies in pieces at its location Zonqor Point in Marsaskala, where it was sunk at a recreational depth of 20m between the popular wrecks of the tugboats St Michael and Number 10 (aka Melita).
According to a report in Germany’s Taucher magazine (translated) ‘many parts of the wreck were ripped off…[and] will have to be brought to the surface.’ What will happen to the rest of the wreck is currently unclear but ‘it is very possible that the entire wreck will also have to be taken out of the water.’
The 23m-long Bremse class vessel was commissioned by the East German Navy in 1972, where she served before being sold to Malta in 1992 following the 1990 reunification of Germany. P-33 was bought together with her sister ship P-32 and two Kondor class minesweepers, the P-30 and P-31 – the latter already a popular wreck dive off Comino – before being decommissioned in 2005.
Plans to scuttle the P-33 as an artificial reef had first been mooted in 2012, although the proposed site outside of Gozo’s Marsalforn Bay was rejected due to ‘environmental concerns.’
The sinking on 31 July was aided by a €250,000 investment from the Maltese government to kindle interest in the Maltese diving sector, which was badly hit by the coronavirus travel restrictions.