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The P31, a former AFM patrol boat, has been scuttled off the west coast of Comino in the area known as tal-Matz.

The 52-metre boat was scuttled at a depth of 18 metres. Part of its mast had to be sawn off so that there would be a five metre gap between the top of the boat and the surface of the sea.

The boat was towed by the mv Sea Wolf II this morning and was positioned for scuttling by a Cassar Ship Repair Yard representative.The boat has been stored at Cassar's yard since 2005, after it was decommissioned by the AFM and bought by the Malta Tourism Authority.

MTA project coordinator Mark Scerri Simiana said that this scuttling followed that of the P29, in Cirkewwa in August 2007. Both projects have been fully financed from the MTA's budget.

The P31 is now a wreck for the diving industry and will also aid the eco-system as it will increase the small fish population.

Tourism Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco said the Maltese islands last year attracted almost 55,000 divers with the majority hailing from the UK, Germany and Italy.

Malta had over 20 particular diving attractions inlcuding nine purposely scuttled vessels and the country's diving product was renowned the world over with the diving community.

"Malta has been voted the third best diving destination in the world by some 35,000 readers of the UK publication DIver Magazine, preceded only by Egypt and the Maldives," he said.

Both the P31 and the P29 were used in East Germany in the cold war era to patrol the river banks between the east and the west. They were also used for mine sweeping operations between Germany and Denmark. The AFM used them to patrol the continental shelf and against smuggling operations.

An aerial video of the scuttling by the AFM press office can be seen at:

http://www.afm.gov.mt/000_RESOURCES_Media/FLICS/ScuttlingSml.wmv

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