A short history…
After a four and a half year wait, the M/T Hephaestus, a 61m long tanker has been “wrecked” for a second time, this time permanently, at Xatt l-Aħmar in Għajnsielem, Gozo, on the 29th of August 2022.
The M/T Hephaestus originally became a known name around the Maltese Islands after it was famously wrecked at il-Ponta tal-Qawra, off St. Paul’s Bay, on the 10th of February 2018 (just under the Malta National Aquarium). The wreck was patched up and dislodged from the shore and refloated on the 15th August 2018, following which it was towed to the Grand Harbour. Immediately, news reports in 2018 had already indicated that it was likely that the ship might be considered for scuttling as an artificial reef and diving attraction since the damages sustained when it was wrecked for the first time made it unfeasible to be repaired.
The official Transport Malta Marine Safety Investigation Unit accident report, which we are reproducing underneath, gives a detailed account of the circumstances which had resulted in it ending up ashore at il-Ponta tal- Qawra. The conclusions included it having been anchored in an exposed position when considering the deteriorating weather at the time, lack of necessary equipment on board, delayed action by the master and port supervisors, lack of commitment by the Company towards the crew of the ship and lack of the company to ensure the ship itself was properly equipped and resupplied.
Even though the news report announcing the ship may be scuttled included a claim by shipyard that the ship might be ready in a couple of months for scuttling, it took almost four years for it to end up on the seabed, which was not wasted time but simply the time needed to get a wreck down! At one point in 2020/2021, it was announced that the ship would have been scuttled off the South-East of Qala, Gozo, creating a new boat dive site in an area with no other wrecks or diving attractions. However, this proposal apparently was met with several objections during the Environment and Resources Authority’s screening process, among which from other authorities.
Whilst divinginfo.mt was researching some of the information about what happened during this period, the main information that came to light was the ERA/PA process documentation, which was quite lengthy and we’re still digesting to include in this article.
Getting it wrecked for the second time
However, to bring the story to a conclusion, in July 2022 the process appeared to have gone into overdrive, and notices were issued by Transport Malta that the scuttling had to be carried out in the last full week of August 2022, but then a follow-up notice put the date to the 29th of August, with a contingency plan for the day after if needed. The scuttling apparently went almost perfectly to plan, save a drift to east, and from the initial photos shared on social media, and which we’re re-sharing through our Facebook Page, the wreck settled upright. We’ll jump at our first opportunity and take some photos ourselves 🙂
Of course here one has to give the congratulations and thanks for the hard work done by the scuttling and organisation team, headed by the PDSA, and for the sponsorship of the Malta Tourism Authority which is assumed to have sponsored the project.
Coordinates of the Hephaestus as shared by the Secretary of the PDSA:
- 36 01 015 N
- 14 17 371 E
The ship drifted East whilst going down. The bow facing the reef (unfortunately not so close to it)
See the picture with the depth below
Images / Video
Thanks to Arkadiusz Srebnik / https://www.instagram.com/polanddivingphoto/ who provided the pics and video we’re posting below. Let’s see in a few months how it will change once nature starts colonizing it!
10 Months later…
The M/T Hephaestus is being dived regularly, from both shore (DPV & Twinset + Stages suggested as minimum), or by boat. A wreck marker buoy indicates its location, though the bouy block is about 30m north from the wreck’s bow.
It is suggested to follow the mooring chain down to 30ms prior to head south towards the wreck and you should immediately spot its bow (good viz days), after a minute’s swim (keep the anchor line/mooring block in view) on days the visibility is not great. Currents are frequently felt in the zone (mostly heading east) – so be aware of how you’re moving.
We link below also a video shared by Victor Micallef, shot during an ATLAM Sub-Aqua Club boat dive to the wreck on the 25 June 2023. It shows quite some life has started growing. Unfortunately, we also had an occasion to spot a fishing pot on it, so always be on the lookout for illegal fishing nets / lines, though the diving community reports it immediately and gets cleanup up pretty fast.