A one-of-a-kind sunken wreck from World War II lying near Manoel Island has been scheduled as a site of archaeological importance to be preserved “at all costs”.
The wreck is an X127 Waterlighter used as a submarine supply barge during World War II and sunk by enemy fire while still lashed to its moorings beneath the arched colonnades of the Lazzaretto.
It was among 200 originally designed for the Gallipoli campaign in 1915 by Walter Pollock and Son of Faversham in Kent and is the only one in the world that has been preserved intact.
The site in Lazzaretto Creek is touted as ideal for diving and a number of divers have campaigned for it to be protected. They were worried it would be spoiled by the yacht marina planned as part of Midi’s Mediterranean marina village project on Manoel Island.
Last year, Midi CEO Ben Muscat had been reluctant to give a guarantee to protect it, saying: “We will try to work around it as much as we can. The breakwater won’t touch the wreck but at the end of the day it is still going to be smack in the middle of a marina.” He did not anticipate any works taking place close to the site but could only pledge to save the site “to the extent that we can”.
However, the wreck has now been protected through a legal notice that has just been published. This gives it a Class B certification which means it is “very important to be preserved at all costs”. Adequate measures must be taken to preclude any damage from immediate development, a spokesman for the planning authority said.
When the government had released plans for the yacht marina last year, it did not give any indication of how the wreck would be protected. When contacted, the Infrastructure Ministry had said there was no mention of it during the consultation process.
Diver Etienne Micallef, who campaigned for the wreck to be protected, welcomed the announcement. “At last, our voices have been heard. It would be interesting to know, though, what enforcement systems will such scheduling bring into force.”
The scheduling will give the wreck a buffer zone of 50 metres. “Is this enough? I think not, but I understand there has to be a balance between preservation and progress, so 50 metres is a good start... 75 metres or 100 metres would of course go down much nicer.”
He said it would be “really interesting” to figure out whether the marina construction planned by Midi would take protective considerations for the wreck and incorporate it in the finished project. He added there should be specific clauses in the permit regarding penalties against the developer should there be any aberrations or other negligence resulting in damage to the wreck.
“One must point out that the X127 is in a fragile condition and she survived so long because of the quite sheltered area she lies in.”
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