Wednesday, March 29, 2023

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Government to harness maximum benefits from sunken and derelict vessels

Sri Lanka is to make use of 47 dunken abandoned shipwrecks in sea rich in marine life with aim of harnessing its potential to be steady magnets for dive tourism but some of those sunken vessels wrecks are being salvaged indiscriminately for scrap metal.

The announcement of a U.S. grant of $82,192 to document and conserve the Godawaya shipwreck and its artifacts.The grant to Sri Lanka’s Central Cultural Fund comes from the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.

Documentation of the site and engagement with U.S. experts on Indo-Pacific trade routes and shipwrecks will increase global understanding trade in the Indo-Pacific and especially Sri Lanka’s role in this rich history

In this back drop the Ports, Shipping and Aviation Ministry has directed officials to maximize revenue generation from sunken and derelict vessels.

While holding a special discussion at the ministry, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said 47 such vessels have sunk or capsized in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters.

Therefore, the minister issued instructions to take maximum benefit from these vessels for the local economy and to preserve them in view of their archaeological importance if necessary.

“A large number of tourists are interested in exploring the sites of sunken vessels in local waters, which is also facilitated by a number of international ocean exploration and divining teams for the photography of the sites,” he said.

During the discussions, it was decided to salvage any vessels with no archaeological value at these sites and sell them for scrap and credit revenue to the government account.

“According to maritime law, if rights over a sunken ship were not presented within a period of one year, ownership of the ship would fall on the government that owned the oceanic territory,” he pointed out.

The Minister ordered relevant officials to look into six such vessels anchored at Colombo, Galle, and Trincomalee ports for more than six years and consider expediting the legal process to obtain the maximum revenue for Sri Lanka Ports Authority out of these abandoned vessels.

The Director General of the Marine Environment Protection Authority emphasized the importance of avoiding pollution to the marine environment during this process.

Sri Lanka’s star shipwreck that lies off Batticaloa at a depth of 42 metres is the HMS Hermes, the first ship in any navy to be designed and built as an aircraft carrier.

This was sunk by a Japanese air attack in April 1942 and placed Sri Lanka among other top Wreck Diving destinations. Tourism sources say about 30 divers will arrive in Sri Lanka to dive at this world famous shipwreck.

Other famous shipwrecks in Sri Lanka of interest to divers include Conch (Hikkaduwa), Earl of Shaftesbury (Hikkaduwa), SS Rangoon (Unawatuna), Colombo Cargo Wreck, Colombo Taprobane East Wreck, Colombo Barge and MV Cordiality (Pulmoddai).

Sri Lanka also has many ships sunk during the colonial era and a few even prior to that which are of enormous archaeological value. According to Sri Lankan law any ship older than 100 years cannot be salvaged considering its archaeological value.

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