The redevelopment of the Manoel Island yacht marina will not damage a World War II wreck, the Midi Consortium has pledged, amid concerns over its vulnerability.

The vessel - an X127 Waterlighter sunk in 1942 - lies fully intact in the waters beneath Lazzaretto Creek.

"The sunken wreck will not be affected by any of the marine works that we are planning in the vicinity of Lazzaretto. No works will be carried out close to the wreck," Midi plc CEO Ben Muscat said.

Over the past year, concerns have been raised over the protection of the X127 Waterlighter, one of 200 designed by Walter Pollock and Son of Faversham in Kent for the Gallipoli campaign in 1915.

During World War II, the X127 was used as a submarine supply barge. It was sunk by enemy fire while still lashed to its moorings beneath the arched colonnades of the Lazzaretto. The sunken wreck remains intact and is a popular diving spot.

Cultural Superintendent Anthony Pace confirmed that the wreck is protected under Maltese law. "We are keeping our eyes open. Although we are concerned, we are taking a positive view on the issue. However, if a threat exists, we will do everything in our power to protect it," he said.

The wreck, previously known as the Carolita, was renamed after British diving instructor Dave Mallard discovered the true origins of what was believed to be an ordinary barge. The archaeological diver from the Isle of Wight has been campaigning for the protection of the 30-metre-long wreck with a number of other local divers concerned that redevelopment of the yacht marina at Manoel Island will threaten the wreck.

Local diver Etienne Micallef, who made a plea for the protection of the wreck in a letter to The Sunday Times (see page 18), welcomed Midi's commitment:

"If Midi keeps its promise, and if the Cultural Superintendent does his best to ensure the protection of the wreck, this will not only benefit divers but the whole country since a unique piece of cultural heritage will be preserved.

"Being an underwater cultural heritage site, and in quite shallow waters, the wreck should have already been designated as a protected zone whereby boat traffic is prohibited anywhere within a healthy radius."

An underwater video of the wreck can be seen online by visiting: www.xlighter.org/x127/wreck.html.

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