The 60m-long, 855-tonne Hephaestus, registered in Togo, was scuttled at Xatt l-Aħmar just 30m off Gozo’s south-east coast on 29 August. The wreck lies upright, close to the existing trio of motor vessels turned artificial reefs Karwela, Xlendi and Cominoland.
The tanker had run aground on rocks in St Paul’s Bay in Malta, coincidentally during the traditional feast of St Paul’s shipwreck, on 10 February, 2018. There were no casualties, but the wreck was stranded there for six months before being towed to the port of Valletta.
When it was declared a write-off, Malta’s Professional Diving Schools Association (PDSA) proposed that it be scuttled for divers, but the project was delayed by requirements for planning permits and underwater surveys.
Diver deaths in Malta
A 66-year-old German scuba diver died on the afternoon of 2 September after getting into difficulty at Wied iz-Zurrieq on Malta’s south coast. The area is where a bigger tanker, the Libyan Um El Faroud, was sunk as an artificial reef in 1998.
First-aiders from the Maltese Red Cross Society were reported to have been at the scene to assist the man until a medical team arrived. He was taken to hospital but pronounced dead soon after.
The death was the second in three weeks: on 12 August, police recovered the body of Maltese soldier Sgt Christian Degabriele, 35, who had failed to return from freediving in St Paul’s Bay on the east coast the previous day.